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Lesson 1: In The Beginning: God (Genesis 1:1, Introduction)

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Queen Victoria ruled England from 1839-1901. When she was a young girl, she was shielded from the fact that she would be the next ruling monarch of England, lest this knowledge spoil her. When her teacher finally did let her discover that she would one day be Queen, Victoria’s response was, “Then I will be good!” No matter where she was or what she did, Victoria was governed by the fact that she would one day sit upon the throne of England. The knowledge of her identity and destiny governed her life.

Go back with me to about 1500 B.C. You are the leader of over two million refugees who have come out of slavery in Egypt and are about to enter Canaan, a land God has promised to your forefathers. But there are giants in the land who must be conquered. The people in the land are idol worshipers, immoral beyond description. You know that you are about to die, so you won’t be able personally to lead your people in the conquest of that land. Somehow you must instill in them the resolve to conquer the enemies and to remain morally and spiritually pure in the process. How would you do it?

The first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) were written by Moses for that purpose. Moses had led Israel out of bondage in Egypt. For 40 years they had wandered in the wilderness, often grumbling and threatening to mutiny and return to Egypt. Finally they were on the verge of entering the land. Because of Moses’ disobedience in striking the rock, God told him that he could not enter the land. In fact, except for Joshua, Moses’ successor, and Caleb, the whole adult generation which left Egypt died in the wilderness. Before he died, Moses had the overwhelming task of instilling in this new generation a vision for conquering the land and remaining true to God. He did it by writing the first five books of the Bible.

The first of those books, Genesis, is the book of origins. The title comes from a word in the Greek translation (the Septuagint) that is repeated 11 times throughout the book, translated “these are the generations of,” or “this is the account of” (cf. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10; 11:27; 25:12; 25:19; 36:1; 36:9; 37:2). The theme of the book is God’s sovereignty in human history, especially in the history of Israel, His chosen people. It is an account of how God began to call out a people for Himself with the purpose of blessing all nations through them. G. Campbell Morgan has cleverly outlined the book as Generation (chap. 1-2, creation); Degeneration (chap. 3-11, the fall); and Regeneration (chap. 12-50, through Abraham and his descendents).

Most Bible scholars agree that the book hinges at chapter 12, and thus divide it into two major sections, each with four subsections:

1. Human history from Adam to Abraham: The human race (chap. 1-11).

A. Creation (1-2)

B. Fall (3)

C. The judgment of the Flood (4-9).

D. The judgment of Babel (10-11).

2. Human history from Abraham to Joseph: The chosen race (12-50).

A. Abraham (12-24)

B. Isaac (25-26)

C. Jacob (27-36)

D. Joseph (37-50)

In the first section there are two opposite progressions: God’s orderly creation, resulting in the blessing of man; man’s fall into sin, with the devastating judgments of the flood and the scattering at Babel. These chapters demonstrate the desperate condition of the fallen human race and the need for a Savior. This prepares the scene for God’s sovereign calling of Abraham. Though he had no land and no children, God promises to make him a mighty nation, to give him the land of Canaan, and through him to bless all nations.

Moses’ purpose in writing Genesis was to show Israel their origins. He wanted them to know that God was behind all their history, that He was the prime mover who had brought them to where they were. Since the God who had created the universe and had promised the land of Canaan to their ancestor, Abraham, was with them, they could trust Him to fulfill His promise, if they only would obey Him.

Genesis is rich in theology. It has been said, “The roots of all subsequent revelation are planted deep in Genesis, and whoever would truly comprehend that revelation must begin here.” (Cited by J. Sidlow Baxter, Explore the Book [Zondervan], p. 23.) In Genesis, says A. W. Pink, “we have, in germ form, almost all of the great doctrines which are afterwards fully developed in the books of Scripture which follow” (Gleanings in Genesis [Moody Press], p. 5; the following summary is based on Pink, pp. 5-7). To list a few:

God is revealed as the Sovereign, all-powerful Creator. He is seen as the Covenant God. The first hint of the Trinity is in Genesis. The schemes of Satan, the fallen nature of man, God’s sovereign election and saving grace, justification by faith, the security of the believer, the need for holiness, the power of prayer, and even the saints’ rapture to heaven are in Genesis. God’s judgment on sin, His promise of a Savior, and the death, resurrection, and superior priesthood of that Savior are foreshadowed. The basis of God’s program for world missions is found in Genesis.

Genesis tells us the beginning of almost everything except God. There is the beginning of the universe, of life, man, the seven-day week, marriage, family life, sin, sacrifice, redemption, death, the nations, government, cities, music, literature, art, agriculture, and languages.

As you know, Genesis (especially the first eleven chapters) has come under severe attack from critics. Many have dismissed it as pure myth. Others, who hesitate to go that far, nonetheless view it as religious stories woven together from various sources by a later editor. They reject the historicity of Genesis, while accepting the religious or moral point of the narratives. Of course evolutionists laugh off the creation account as totally lacking in scientific validity.

Hundreds of volumes have been written on these problems. I could spend many messages going over a lot of tedious material on both scientific and biblical arguments on these issues, but I doubt that such an approach would resolve much. My approach is simple (but, I hope, not simplistic): There are scholars who are far more brilliant and educated than I am on both sides of the issue. That tells me that it is not primarily an intellectual matter. If competent scholars can hold to the scientific credibility, historicity, and Mosaic authorship of Genesis (and many do), then I can also hold those positions without sacrificing my intellectual integrity.

I believe that the real issue is moral and spiritual, not intellectual. You don’t have to check your brains at the door to become a Christian, but you do have to submit your will to Christ as Lord. If you accept the first verse of the Bible, it has some fundamental effects on your life! But because of sin, people don’t want to accept the truth of the sovereign Creator God who is presented here. Thus they are quick to grab at supposed intellectual problems so that they have an excuse not to submit their lives to Him.

Jesus and the apostles clearly believed in the historicity and authority of the early chapters of Genesis. Our Lord refers to Genesis 1 & 2 in His teaching on divorce, attributing the texts to Moses (Matt. 19:4-8; see also Mark 13:19 where Jesus refers to creation). Paul obviously believed in a literal Adam and Eve, created by God, fallen in sin (1 Tim. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rom. 5:12-14). Peter believed in the historicity of the flood (1 Pet. 3:20). You cannot claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and His teaching through the apostles and at the same time reject the historicity of the early chapters of Genesis.

With that as an introduction to the book as a whole, let’s spend the rest of our time on the first verse, one of the most profound in the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Immediately the reader of the Bible is brought face to face with the fact of God. There is no argument to prove His existence. There is no introduction to lead up to the point. There is no room for speculation, no philosophizing. By revelation, not speculation, we are brought face to face with the God who created the universe. There’s not even time to duck. Genesis 1:1 draws a line in the dirt and asks us to step over. As A. W. Pink points out (p. 10), false religions and human philosophies begin with man and, in some cases, seek to work up to God. But the Bible begins with God as the One who was in the beginning, the One who made all that is. We must, in all our thinking, begin with God. He is the Source of all else.

The late Professor Harlow Shapley of Harvard stated, “Some people piously proclaim, ‘In the beginning, God.’ I say, ‘In the beginning, Hydrogen’” (cited in Christianity Today [10/8/82], p. 28). That’s the clear choice! Either you must accept God as the Source of all or reject Him and accept matter and chance as the source. You cannot be neutral; it is an authoritative declaration that demands a response:

Because God is the eternal Creator of the universe, we all must submit to Him.

1. God is the eternal Creator of the universe.

Before anything was, God was. If you reject that, your only option is that matter has always been in existence in one form or another. It is inconceivable that matter came into being apart from God. Science can take us back 15 billion years ago to the Big Bang, but it can’t tell us where the material which exploded came from or what caused the explosion. It must have come from matter which existed before it. If there was ever a time when nothing existed, then nothing could exist now, because something cannot come from nothing. And so either matter always has been or God always has been. Those are the only choices. This verse is clear as to which is correct:

A. God is eternal.

That means that He alone is self-existent. Everything else in the universe has a beginning, a cause. God alone always has been, is, and will be. He is the first cause, Himself uncaused. As Moses put it so eloquently in Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” That’s mind-boggling! Everything we know and relate to has a cause or a beginning. But God has no cause, no beginning. We don’t have a category to fit Him into. We can’t grasp the concept of a Being with no beginning or end, who exists in and of Himself.

In Romans 1:20, Paul states, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” The fallen human race should be able to look at creation and deduce that there is a being with eternal power behind it all.

Consider just the enormity of the universe. If you could travel at the speed of light, it would take you 8 minutes to get from the earth to the sun. To go from the sun to the center of the Milky Way would take about 33,000 years. The Milky Way belongs to a group of some 20 galaxies known as the Local Group. To cross the Local Group you’d have to travel at the speed of light for 2 million years. The Local Group belongs to the Virgo Cluster, part of the even larger Local Supercluster, which would take you 500 million light years to cross. To cross the entire known universe would take you about 20 billion light years! But not only is God eternal. Our text also reveals that ...

B. God is the Creator of the universe.

“The heavens and the earth” refers to the whole universe. God created it all by speaking the word. Hebrews 11:3 states, “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.” A skeptic will chide, “See, it takes faith! You can’t accept creation unless you put your brains aside and take a leap of faith.” If you say such nonsense, God calls you a fool (Ps. 14:1). It takes faith to accept that God did it all simply by speaking His word. But even a little child can figure out that it takes an eternal, powerful God to do it.

When my son, Daniel, was four years old, he asked me, “Dad, if there were no trees, could we live?” I told him that if there were no trees or plants of any kind we could not live, because the plants provide the oxygen we need to breathe. We provide the carbon dioxide the plants need to live. Think about the amazing balance God has put in creation! Our planet is perfectly designed to sustain life. If it were closer to the sun, we would burn up. If it were farther from the sun, we would freeze. If the earth were a few miles smaller in diameter, the density of its atmosphere would be so thin that the earth would not retain enough heat to sustain animal or human life. The earth’s waters would freeze to such a depth that all other forms of life would perish. But if earth were a few miles larger in diameter, the air would become so dense that too much heat would be absorbed, resulting in the death of all living things.

God made water to freeze and boil at just the right temperatures. Between absolute zero (-460 F.) and boiling (212 F.) is 672 degrees. If water froze just 4 percent of that range lower, it would rain at 6 degrees above zero. Where there are now vast fields of snow and ice, storing up water against the heat of summer, there would be winter floods and erosion. If God had fixed the freezing point of water two percent of the range higher, there would be frost at 45 degrees, snow and ice would never melt in many areas, and many serious problems would result.

God knew that the oceans should not freeze at 32 degrees, or there would be too much ice. So He added salt, in just the right proportion to sustain marine life. And yet He designed the hydrologic cycle to provide salt-free rain from the ocean for crops and human consumption. He has designed the seasons and the balance of food for all the animals. We could go on and on! Even evolutionists admit the delicate ecological balance on this planet. But they attribute it to “Mother Nature” (= Chance), not to God.

It is this matter of chance or purposeless natural processes versus intelligent design that is at the heart of Darwinism (see Phillip Johnson, Darwin on Trial [IVP, 2nd ed.], p. 17). Evolutionists have an a priori commitment to the fact that even though the world and the incredibly complex creatures that inhabit it sure look like they were made by an intelligent Creator, it isn’t true, because random mutations and natural selection explain everything, even though these processes have never been scientifically observed as causing any kind of useful new organ in a species, let alone a whole brand new species.

Phillip Johnson explains that even the simplest living organism is “a masterpiece of miniaturized complexity which makes a spaceship seem rather low-tech” (p. 105). He goes on to say that the odds that even a DNA or RNA macromolecule could assemble itself by chance are fantastically unlikely, even if billions of years were available. Then he writes, “I won’t quote figures because exponential numbers are unreal to people who are not used to them, but a metaphor by Fred Hoyle has become famous because it vividly conveys the magnitude of the problem: that a living organism emerged by chance from a pre-biotic soup is about as likely as that ‘a tornado sweeping through a junkyard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein.’ Chance assembly is just a naturalistic way of saying ‘miracle’” (p. 106).

So the choice is, either the eternal, intelligent, all-powerful God created the universe and everything in it, or it came about from senseless chance acting on matter that has eternally existed. If God is the Creator, then ...

2. We all must submit to God.

If eternal matter plus impersonal chance caused all that is, we don’t have to submit to it and repent of our sin. We can live as we please. But if a personal God created everything by His word, a God who is awesome in His holiness, then there are definite implications for us! Because God is the creator of everything in this universe, including human life (1:26), we cannot ignore Him. This is the inescapable import of this profound first verse of the Bible!

If you ask the modern atheist what he believes in, he will most likely reply, “I believe in humankind,” or, with Carl Sagan, “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” Of course, Sagan is making a faith statement, not a scientific one. What a terrible thing, to believe that the material universe is all that is! This is precisely what Paul observes of those who throw off the knowledge of God through His creation, and become futile in their speculations, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:20-25). As G. K. Chesterton once said, “It is often supposed that when people stop believing in God, they believe in nothing. Alas, it is worse than that. When they stop believing in God, they believe in anything!”

This was pathetically illustrated some years ago when Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, saw the difficulty of explaining how the complexity of life could have evolved by chance in the time available if the earth is about 5 billion years old. In all seriousness, he speculated that primitive life forms must have been sent here on spaceships from some advanced extraterrestrial civilization. To what ludicrous extremes otherwise intelligent men will go to escape the reality of God and the moral implications of His power as revealed in creation!


Each of us must come to terms with the God who made the universe and who made us in His image. Either you submit to Him or you must believe what Darwinist George Gaylord Simpson said: “Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” But believing that God doesn’t exist does not make Him cease to exist. He is the living God who, in the beginning, created the heavens and the earth. Perhaps you’re afraid to come to Him. There is sin in your life, and like Adam and Eve after they sinned, you’d rather hide from Him. Listen to the words of Jesus Christ, who claimed to be sent by God to die for our sins and that someday He will judge every person: “He who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

Discussion Questions

  1. Is Darwinian evolution scientific fact or religious dogma? Why?
  2. Can a belief in God as Creator co-exist with a belief in random mutations and natural selection? Why/why not?
  3. How would you answer someone who said that the early chapters of Genesis are just a bunch of religious myths?
  4. How would you respond to someone who said, “To accept Genesis 1:1 requires a leap of faith”?

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Creation, History, Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Theology Proper (God)

Lesson 2: God Created (Genesis 1:1-2)

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Before we work through Genesis 1 & 2, I want to give you a framework for thinking about the creation-evolution debate that is sparked by these chapters. The widespread acceptance of evolution as a fact in our universities has shaken the faith of many Christians and has led to the teaching of views such as theistic evolution in many Christian colleges. While there is room for some difference of opinion among Bible-believing Christians about the creation account, there is not unrestricted room. Since some of the views being espoused by professing Christians seem to be motivated by the desire to harmonize the Bible with the claims of evolution, we need to raise some questions about evolutionary theory and define the limits for interpreting the biblical record.

At the outset I want to remind you of what I said last week, that our approach to biblical revelation is of utmost importance. If you come to the Bible as a skeptic, demanding proof that it is true, you will not find any answers. God will not be held hostage by the demands of proud skeptics. As we saw, the Bible begins with the fact of God and draws the line in the sand, confronting us with the need to submit to God as the Sovereign Lord of our lives. This is not to say that we must check our brains at the door, but it is to say that we must come to God with submissive, contrite hearts, ready to turn from our sin and do His will. Then He will provide reasonable answers to our questions. As Hebrews 11:6 puts it, “... he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Genesis 1 as well as many other Scriptures affirm that ...

God supernaturally created the universe by His power.

Every Bible-believing Christian must hold to that proposition. The debate centers on how and when God created the universe. Did He do it through speaking the word in six 24-hour days in relatively recent history, or did He use natural processes over longer periods of time? In discussing these questions, we encounter some ...

Areas of tension:

*The age of the earth and the geologic record--Science claims that the earth is 3-5 billion years old, based on various factors such as the age of rock formations, the fossil record, various dating methods, etc. The fact that we can see distant galaxies that are millions of light years away seems to argue that the universe, at least, is millions of years old, since it took the light from those galaxies that long to travel to us. But, some creationists argue for a relatively young earth, explaining the apparent age either by special creation or the world-wide flood.

*Evolution--Science claims that all life evolved from a single lower form over billions of years, with man being the highest form. The Bible is clear that human beings, at the very least, and probably all of the other forms of life, are the special creation of God. We need to be careful to define how the word “evolution” is being used. Sometimes it is used by naturalistic evolutionists to mean “change.” They point to obvious changes or adaptations of species to their environments and say, “See, change is undeniable.” But then they leap to the unwarranted conclusion that such changes have resulted in the formation of completely new and different species in a gradual, steadily upward progression from the first one-celled organisms to modern man. Thus they drastically change the meaning of the word.

The usual explanations for how such gradual improvements have occurred is through random mutations and natural selection. Mutations are sudden variations that cause the offspring to differ from their parents. Natural selection, sometimes called “survival of the fittest,” means that those forms best suited for the survival of the species endure, while those not suited become extinct. If it seems unlikely that the present level of complexity and diversity happened through these means, the evolutionist claims that given 5 billion years, it could happen.

*The age of man--Science claims that man is 2-3 million years old; if the genealogies in Genesis are taken as accurate, even with gaps about the furthest back you can push the creation of man is 10-20,000 B.C.

Some proposed solutions:

There have been different attempts to harmonize these areas of tension with the Bible. I can only deal with each briefly.

*Theistic evolution--Of course, atheistic evolution, which believes that the universe has evolved through chance plus time, is completely incompatible with the Bible. But a number of scholars have proposed different forms of theistic evolution. These vary in their approach, but all are combinations of divine creation and the evolutionary process. Some say that God created the original matter and then superintended the process of evolution which took over at that point. Others would say that God intervened at various points with special creation, and that evolution operated between those points. But invariably theistic evolutionists explain the early chapters of Genesis as being allegory or poetry, but not accurate historical accounts.

What about it? First, any view of theistic evolution which claims to hold to the authority of Scripture must reject the evolution of man. The Bible is clear that man is the special creation of God, made in His image. And even if Adam evolved, Genesis 2 is clear that God made Eve from Adam’s rib. Outside the Pentateuch, there are nine passages referring to Adam or Eve as historical people. If the first human couple was just a notch above their ape-like parents who bore them, it destroys the biblical doctrine of man created in the image of God and the doctrine of the fall of the human race into sin.

Second, if we must allow for the special creation of the human race, then why not allow for the special creation of other animals and plants? The only reason not to would be the supposed evidence of evolution. But the evidence is not nearly as strong as its proponents claim. Any argument is only as strong as its presuppositions. As Phillip Johnson cogently argues in Darwin on Trial [IVP], Darwinian evolution is built on the presupposition that science deals with natural processes only. God or miracles are excluded by assumption as not being in the realm of science. It is no surprise, therefore, that, having assumed that God could not have caused the material world, evolutionists conclude that it happened by some natural process, even when there is powerful evidence of intelligent design. But this is merely begging the question.

The fossil record is given as the first line of evidence for evolution in World Book Encyclopedia (1985, “Evolution,” by James H. Brown, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona). But, in fact, the fossil record is one of the major problems facing the evolutionist. If there was a gradual change from the lowest forms of life to the highest, there should be an abundance of transitional fossils. But, there are gaps in the fossil record at precisely the points the evolutionist needs evidence. In fact, the gaps are right where they should be if God created the species distinct from one another.

Darwin admitted the problem; in fact, he conceded that it was the most serious objection to his theory (Johnson, pp. 46-47), but he thought that further discoveries would prove him right. Darwin’s most formidable opponents at first were not ministers, but fossil experts (Johnson, p. 45). Further discoveries have not proved Darwin right, which has led some leading evolutionists to speculate that instead of Darwin’s gradual evolution, there were sudden, major changes that resulted in new species. But they have no idea how such changes could have taken place and no scientific evidence to support their theory. They have had to reinterpret the fossil record that seems to support the biblical creation account (Johnson, pp. 45-62)!

Evolution has no way of explaining how positive, permanent change takes place. Supposedly mutations cause the change in a species and natural selection guarantees the permanence of the change. But mutations are usually harmful, not beneficial, and the odds of natural selection preserving the rare beneficial changes are so slim as to be nonexistent. Neither mutations nor natural selection can explain where the new genes come from to produce new, useful organs and entirely new species. How do animals without a backbone suddenly develop one? How do organisms without teeth even gradually over millions of years develop into animals with teeth? How do animals who lay eggs suddenly develop a uterus, ovaries, and the necessary hormonal system to stimulate ovulation? How did that happen at just the same time that the male of the species developed the ability to impregnate the female, and how did this major change in one mutant couple take over the whole species? If it did take over, why didn’t the lower forms of life eventually die out?

Evolutionists jump over this insuperable problem in two ways. First, they posit incredible intelligence to lower forms of life or to this mysterious process of natural selection. For example, an article in Newsweek [April 12, 1982] reported how if foraging honey ants on their way to a termite feast meet an enemy colony, some rush back to the nest to recruit 200 or more reinforcements to march on the offending colony. Then, “The ants walk on stilt legs and rear their heads, drum their antennae on their opponents’ abdomens and kick with their forelegs. No one gets killed, and soon the weaker ants decide it is the better part of valor to retreat and fight another day.”

A Harvard professor explains that this ritual “evolved to spare ants the bloodshed of actual battle.” “If the ants fought for real,” he explains, “they’d have to sacrifice hundreds to get a food resource that is constantly changing, ... incurring an enormous cost for benefits that aren’t that great.” Isn’t that amazing! The ants are smarter than we are! People fight and kill each other, but the ants decided that a real war wasn’t worth the lost lives, so they stage a limited conflict instead.

Another issue of Newsweek ([5/28/79], p. 60) described the 17-year life cycle of a type of cicada. The larvae live for 17 years underground and then emerge for one month to mate and repeat the cycle. Why do they do it at 17-year intervals? A University of Chicago biologist speculates that these insects have developed a sophisticated strategy for survival. “Seventeen years is an unusual lifespan. If a predator had a life cycle of six years, for example, it would not encounter cicadas above ground more than once a century.” He wants us to believe that these bugs not only had the intelligence to figure out that a 17-year cycle would fool their enemies, but also that they had the power to instigate the change once they all came to agree on the time! Can you imagine the cicada council getting together millions of years ago and debating how long their life-cycle should be to ensure maximum survival? One cicada suggests that five years in the ground is long enough, but others argue that they won’t survive unless they pick an odd number like 17! Finally it comes to a vote and the 17 year guys win! Then all they had to figure out was how to change their body clocks so that they stayed in the ground that long and all came out at the same time!

I hate to mock such examples of erudition, but the fact that such patently stupid reasoning could seriously be believed by professors at such prestigious institutions as Harvard and the University of Chicago shows the incredible stranglehold that blind faith in the theory of evolution has in our educational circles. The evolutionist is taking God’s wisdom as seen in the intricacies of insect behavior and attributing that wisdom to some impersonal, inexplicable mystery of evolution. It takes far less faith to attribute it to an intelligent God.

A second way that evolutionists dodge the problem of how random mutations and natural selection could account for the wide differentiation of species that we now observe is by saying that given 5 billion years, anything could happen. There is a well-known statement to the effect that a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters for a million years might by chance type a Shakespearian play. To illustrate how ludicrous this analogy is, Dr. Bolton Davidheiser tested the mathematical probability of a million monkeys typing on special typewriters with only capital letters and seven punctuation keys at the rate of 12 and a half keys per second, how long would it take them to type accidentally the first verse of Genesis? To explain the incredible numbers, he uses this analogy:

Think of a large mountain which is solid rock. Once a year a bird comes and rubs its beak on the mountain, wearing away an amount equivalent to the finest grain of sand .... At this rate of erosion the mountain would disappear very slowly, but when completely gone the monkeys would still just be warming up.

Think of a rock not the size of a mountain, but a rock larger than the whole earth. Try to think of a rock so large that if the earth were at its center its surface would touch the nearest star. This star is so far away that light from it takes more than four years to get here, traveling 186,000 miles every second. If a bird came once every million years and removed an amount equivalent to the finest grain of sand, four such rocks would be worn away before the champion super simians would be expected to type Genesis 1:1 (Evolution and the Christian Faith [Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company], pp. 362-363).

And evolutionists accuse creationists of taking a blind leap of faith! Since evolution has so many problems that militate against it, why buy into theistic evolution, especially since you have to sacrifice a normal interpretation of the biblical account to do it? Theistic evolution is not an option for the Bible-believing Christian.

There are some other proposed solutions to the areas of tension between science and the Bible. I must be brief in presenting these. Any of the three I’m going to mention are viable options. I can’t give all the strengths and weaknesses of each view, but encourage you to dig further on your own.

*The day-age theory--also called progressive creationism. This view says that God created the world directly and deliberately, but that He did it over long periods of time that correspond roughly to the geological ages. There are three variations of this view: (1) day-geological age, which assigns different geological eras to the creation days in Genesis 1; (2) modified intermittent day, in which each creative era is preceded by a 24-hour solar day; (3) overlapping day-age, with each creative era overlapping with each other (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology [Baker], p. 389).

Each variation says that God created the prototype and then allowed for some process of change over long periods of time under His providence. The advantages of this type of explanation are that it allows for scientific data which seem to support the antiquity of the earth. It seeks to take Genesis seriously, not in a mythological sense, as theistic evolution does. It challenges change between species while allowing for adaptation and variation within each species. The disadvantages of the view are: (1) A straight reading of Genesis seems to indicate that “day” means a 24-hour day; (2) it is difficult to harmonize the material in Genesis 1 with the findings of geological, biological, and other sciences; (3) it introduces death into the world (at least the death of animals) before the fall, whereas the Bible seems to make death the consequence of man’s fall into sin.

*Six-day creationism--This theory interprets the Genesis account as six literal days. It posits a relatively young earth (about 12,000 years) and accounts for the geologic and fossil records by the worldwide flood and the cataclysmic events surrounding it. The advantages of this view are that it takes the Genesis record in a literal or normal sense. It rightly attacks the faulty reasoning of evolution. And, it offers a number of creative and credible explanations of geology, paleontology, and biology from men who hold scientific doctorates.

For example, they attack many of the dating methods and assumptions behind geologic theory as resting on a uniformitarian- assumption (the view that natural processes in past times have been no different than they are at present). On this basis, they challenge the supposed antiquity of some of the supposedly early human fossils, which are subject to much subjective interpretation, always from an evolutionary hypothesis. The six-day creationists also point out that fossils are only formed and preserved when there is rapid burial and lithification, which argues for a universal catastrophic flood. Also, they argue (and, I think, rightly so) that God necessarily created the world with the appearance of age, so that the light from distant stars was present on earth the first night they were created. The weaknesses of the six-day view, according to evangelical critics, are that it denies the strong evidence for the antiquity of the earth and that it seems to put too much weight on the effects of the flood.

*The gap theory--This view says that Genesis 1:1 describes the original creation of the universe by God out of nothing. But between verses 1 and 2, there is a gap of an indeterminable amount of time. Verse 2 records the results of a judgment of God upon the creation, probably due to Satan’s rebellion. From the middle of verse 2 on describes God’s recreation or restitution of the earth in six literal days, culminating in putting man on the earth as the new regent under God in place of the fallen Satan. This view allows for the earth to be relatively old, but holds to a recent date (no earlier than 20,000 B.C.) for the creation of man. (A variation of this view allows for a pre-Adamic race of men, but that view seems biblically untenable.)

There are some interesting biblical arguments for this view. Genesis 1:1-2 seem set off from the account of the days of creation. The words “formless,” “void,” and “darkness,” (1:2) are consistently used elsewhere to describe God’s judgment (Isa. 34:11; Jer. 4:23-26; Exod. 10:21; 1 Sam. 2:9; and others). Isaiah 45:18 says that God did not create the earth “a waste place” (NASB; the Hebrew word is the same as “formless” in Gen. 1:2). Why would God start the creation in this condition? From Genesis 3 we learn that Satan had already fallen. Since Satan is called the prince of this world, could not he have ruled the world for God in an earlier age? The condition described in Genesis 1:2 would then be the result of God’s judgment stemming from Satan’s rebellion. The earth was covered with water, which allows for more than one cataclysmic flood, giving more explanation for the fossil and geologic record.

Bible-believing critics of this view say that it reads too much other Scripture into these early verses of Genesis and that it leaves us with just one verse (Gen. 1:1) describing the original creation. The six-day creationists level a number of other criticisms against it (Henry Morris, Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science [Craig Press], pp. 62-66). But I must confess that I find it intriguing and plausible.


Whichever view you take, I think that the genealogies in Genesis limit us to a date of creation for Adam no earlier than 20,000 B.C., probably more like 8,000 B.C. I prefer either the six-day creation view or the gap theory, because they adhere more closely to the biblical text than the day-age theory. But some solid biblical scholars hold to the day-age view, so we must allow for it.

But the bottom line we must hold firmly is that God supernaturally created the universe, including the earth, plant and animal life, and the first human beings. It is not due to natural processes. If we accept the first verse of the Bible, we must allow for the miraculous when it comes to the origin of all that is, because God is over natural processes, not subject to them. And, as I emphasized last week, it means that God is over us. That’s the real issue at the heart of all the explanations of origins. If God supernaturally created the earth and the human race, then we must submit ourselves to His sovereignty by living in obedience to His revealed will.

Discussion Questions

  1. How can we avoid obscurantism (e.g., the church being against Copernicus’ views), but also avoid compromising biblical truth in an attempt to accommodate science?
  2. Which arguments for evolution are the most formidable? Where is biblical creationism most vulnerable to attack?
  3. How do biblical creationists deal with adaptation in species?
  4. Which view of origins do you find most appealing? Why?

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Creation, Cultural Issues, Evolution, History

Lesson 3: The God Of Creation (Genesis 1:2-25)

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When Rachel Saint brought some of the primitive Auca Indians to the United States, she took them to New York City and to the top of the Empire State Building. But the Indians, who thought that an elevator was just a little room and who were not used to being on top of a high structure without climbing it, had no idea of where they were when they stepped out of the elevator and onto the observation deck. They were interested in the pigeons and pigeon droppings, but they had no interest in the fantastic view. Because of their limited perspective, they could not comprehend the panorama before them.

One of the unfortunate results of the predominance of evolutionary thought in our educational system and in our entire culture is that it has hindered even us as Christians from reading Genesis 1 from the viewpoint Moses intended when he wrote it. We get bogged down trying to reconcile the creation account with modern science and miss why it is given to us at the very beginning of God’s revelation. We “miss the view” God intended to give us. John Calvin lifts our eyes to the view by writing, “The intention of Moses, in beginning his Book with the creation of the world, is, to render God, as it were, visible to us in his works” (Calvin’s Commentaries [Associated Publishers & Authors, Inc.], p. viii). After further discussion, he comes back to this theme: “We know God, who is himself invisible, only through his works.... This is the reason why the Lord, that he may invite us to the knowledge of himself, places the fabric of heaven and earth before our eyes, rendering himself, in a certain manner, manifest in them” (p. ix).

In our first two studies I sought to deal with some of the scientific matters because they are so predominant in our thinking that we could never approach Genesis as Moses intended without first showing why evolution is so fallacious. But having dealt with those matters, I now turn to approach the creation account from the perspective of Moses’ purpose in writing. He’s showing us that ...

The creation account should point us to the Creator who alone is worthy of our worship, enjoyment, and obedience.

Moses’ purpose was that in thinking about the creation account and in observing the world around us, we should focus on the greatness of God who brought it all into being through the word of His power. God is referred to by name 35 times in the opening section of Genesis 1:1-2:3. Clearly He is the great subject; creation is merely His handiwork, here to tell us of Him. As Paul states in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Thus we can enjoy creation as a marvelous source of revelation, compatible with and expounded upon by the more specific revelation of the written Word. As Calvin observes (p. xi), “For by the Scripture as our guide and teacher, [the Lord] not only makes those things plain which would otherwise escape our notice, but almost compels us to behold them; as if he had assisted our dull sight with spectacles.... For if the mute instruction of the heaven and the earth were sufficient, the teaching of Moses would have been superfluous.”

Moses did not write to people who were isolated from the competing religious views of their day. Israel had been in captivity for 400 years in Egypt where the sun and a pantheon of other gods were worshiped. The Canaanites worshiped fertility gods, warrior gods, gods who guaranteed healthy crops, gods of the moon and stars. They offered food and, at times, even their own children to their gods to appease them. Against this backdrop of false religions, we see that ...

1. The creation account refutes many errors of false religion.

Moses asserts that God alone created all that is. He didn’t consult with anybody. He didn’t have to answer to anybody. He just spoke the word according to His inscrutable purposes and called into being all that exists. This is in great contrast to the pagan stories of origins of other ancient peoples. Most of them portray a great struggle between powerful forces, where one god finally wins and creates the earth. But Genesis reveals God as effortlessly creating with a mere command: “And God said, ‘Let there be ...’” He is sovereign over and separate from creation, because He made it by His word.

Since He created the sun, moon, and stars, He is over them and in no way are they to be worshiped. Karl Barth saw in the mention of light being created on the first day, but the sun, moon, and stars not being created until the fourth day, “an open protest against all and every kind of sun-worship” (cited by Derek Kidner, Genesis, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries [IVP], p. 54). The fact that the stars are created by God and assigned a fixed purpose by Him shows that they do not have any ability to determine human destinies, thus refuting the widespread practice of astrology (Calvin, pp. 6-7).

There are three ways, by the way, of dealing with the matter of light being created on day one, but the sun, moon and stars not being created until day four. One approach is to attribute the light of day one to God Himself. In the future heavenly city, there will be no sun, but God Himself will be its light (Rev. 21:23; 22:5). Calvin states (p. 3) that “the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon.”

The second view is that these heavenly bodies were created in verse 1, allowed to shine through in a diffuse manner on day one (1:3), but were hidden from direct visibility on earth until the fourth day (1:14-17). A variation of this view is that the heavenly bodies were created in verse 1, shone through on day one (1:3), but were assigned their fixed purposes of marking day and night, seasons, days and years, on day four (1:14-17; John Sailhamer, Expositor’s Bible Commentary [Zondervan], 2:34).

A third view argues that we must see Genesis 1 as a literary-theological arrangement rather than a strict chronological narrative of how creation happened. This is not to call it a myth, but rather to recognize that often the authors of Scripture do not follow our Western mindset by arranging things in strict chronological order. For example, the table of the nations (Gen. 10) is not in chronological order, since it follows the scrambling of languages at Babel (Gen. 11). So here, it is argued, the material is arranged around theological themes rather than around a strict sequence of the events of creation (Bruce Waltke, Christianity Today [8/12/88], pp. 42-46). But however you explain it, the point stands that the sun, moon, and stars are not to be worshiped; they are the mere servants of the powerful Creator who spoke them into existence and assigned their functions.

The creation account refutes a number of other common religious errors. That one God created all that is refutes polytheism, the belief in many gods, and dualism, the view that the good and the evil gods are equal. That He is separate from and over His creation refutes pantheism, the view that the creation is one with God, and the New Age movement, which worships the creation. That He created matter refutes that matter is eternal. That God pronounced creation “good” shows that matter is not evil. That God granted to His creation the ability to be fruitful and multiply refutes the pagan fertility cults (Kidner, pp. 48-49, 57).

That a personal God created the world and put man over it refutes nihilism, the view that human life and history have no discernible meaning and that there is no objective ground of truth or of morals. That God made man as male and female who together reflect His image gives dignity and equality to both sexes, while (as chapter 2 shows) assigning them differing roles. That God appointed man to have dominion over the creation refutes the radical animal rights movement, but also calls us to responsible stewardship of the earth and all its resources. And, that God created all that is by the word of His power refutes evolution by chance and all of the philosophical baggage that goes with it. Thus all of these errors of false religions that have continued to rear their heads down through the centuries are refuted by this first chapter of Genesis.

2. The creation account exalts many of God’s attributes and purposes.

As we look at what God has made and as science probes even deeper into the mysteries of the distant universe on the one hand, and the mysteries of the atom on the other, it should stagger us with the infinite power, wisdom, intelligence, creativity, and glory of God. As Matthew Henry put it, “The height of the heavens should remind us of God’s supremacy and the infinite distance there is between us and him; the brightness of the heavens and their purity should remind us of his glory, and majesty, and perfect holiness; the vastness of the heavens, their encompassing of the earth, and the influence they have upon it, should remind us of his immensity and universal providence” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary [Fleming H. Revell], 1:5). Let’s look at just a few of the attributes and purposes of God as set forth in Genesis 1:

*God is sovereign and all-powerful--He is eternal and self-sufficient, as we saw in our first message, which means, He is the only uncaused Being who is in need of nothing or no one else. When He created the heavens and the earth, He did not hold consultations with anyone because there was no one else! He simply acted in order to bring about His sovereign purpose. If He had chosen to do so, He could have spoken the whole thing into existence in a single sentence. I believe He used the six days of creation to teach us and set a pattern for our existence, that we are to work six days and rest on one each week. That God merely had to speak in order to call into existence what did not exist shows His infinite power and should humble every person and even every nation before Him (2 Pet. 3:5; Ps. 33:6-9)!

*God is intelligent--How scientists can study creation and deny the presence of an intelligent Creator behind it is beyond me. From the tiniest insects to the movements of the planets there is overwhelming evidence of an intricate, interdependent plan. One reason I am inclined to take the six days of Genesis literally is that you cannot take out major sections of creation without upsetting the balance of the rest. Even ardent evolutionists admit that earth’s ecosystems are finely balanced, so that the tiniest interference threatens the whole system. Yet they argue that this finely balanced system, which shows evident design, came into being through sheer chance over billions of years.

Years ago Sir Isaac Newton had an exact replica of our solar system made in miniature. The planets were all geared together by cogs and belts to make them move around the sun in perfect harmony. One day as Newton was studying the model, a friend who did not believe in the biblical account of creation stopped by. Marveling at the device, he exclaimed, “My, Newton, what an exquisite thing! Who made it for you?” Without looking up, Newton replied, “Nobody.” “Nobody?” his friend asked. “That’s right! I said nobody! All of these balls and cogs and belts and gears just happened to come together, and wonder of wonders, by chance they began revolving in their set orbits and with perfect timing.” That’s your option if you don’t believe in an intelligent Creator of the universe. If time would permit, I could give dozens of examples that show incredible, intricate design in God’s creation. For starters, consider your own body!

*God is orderly--Obviously this is an orderly universe. Such order does not come from random chance. Many scholars have pointed out the orderly progression of the days of creation.

Formlessness to Form:

Emptiness to Fulness:

Day 1: Light & dark

Day 4: Lights

Day 2: Sea & sky

Day 5: Fish & birds

Day 3: Land & plants

Day 6: Animals & man

Days 1-3 remedy “Formless”; Days 4-6 remedy “Void.”

God did things in an orderly manner. Concerning this, Harry Blamires writes (Recovering the Christian Mind [IVP], p. 161),

We do not learn that God breathed one day upon the formless void and lo, there emerged a viscid semifluid, semi-transparent substance, the protoplasm. And God said: “From among the elements thus varyingly combined in this unstable combination let vital properties emerge such that millions of years hence, if the one in a billion chance occurs, something may one day achieve vegetable, nay animal existence. And if perchance, millions of years later still, some hungry creatures should spend long hours stretching their necks upwards to feed on foliage wellnigh out of their reach, let their efforts be rewarded by the development of the genetic specification for a long neck. In brief, should such a remarkable concatenation of unforeseeable events occur, let there be no more of a to-do about it, but let there be a giraffe!” There is nothing vague or casual about the biblical account of creation. There is nothing suggestive of a massive historical role for the fortuitous.

The orderliness of all creation shows us not only that God is orderly, but also that He wants us to live orderly, purposeful lives (1 Cor. 14:33, 40).

*God is personal--He is not a mere cosmic force, but a personal being. He speaks, He sees, He makes value judgments about what He has made, and He creates man in His image as a personal being. Evolution stumbles at this point, because it has no explanation for the uniqueness of man as a personal being. It cannot explain the jump from apes to man with his reasoning powers, his ability to communicate in language, and his consciousness of God.

Have you ever thought about, “How did language evolve?” Maybe you assume that cave men spoke in unintelligible grunts, and that gradually language developed. But my college linguistics professor pointed out that you can’t have part of a language. There is no evidence of any language evolving from grunts. Even the most primitive peoples on earth have highly complex, complete language systems. The vocabulary develops according to culture, and grammar and usage may change over time. But you’ve either got the whole language system or none at all. Evolution can’t explain that. Creation can. Man was created in the image of a personal God who communicates in language.

*God is good--The text repeatedly emphasizes, “And God saw that it was good” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). This shows the personal God’s care for His creatures, especially for man. The thrust of chapter 1 is that God is preparing the earth to make it habitable for man. The good is that which is good for man. God’s seeing is an important concept both here and throughout Genesis. The first special name given to God is Hagar’s “El Roi,” the “God who sees” (16:13). God saw her desperate need and provided water to spare her son’s and her lives. God’s seeing the goodness of His creation that He has provided for man sets the stage for the tragedy of chapter 3, where the woman saw that the tree was good, but she was seeking goodness for herself in defiance of God and His good provision. When we come to the judgment of the flood, we read, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth” (6:5). Because He is good in His very being, God must judge all sin.

Those who hold to evolutionary origins for the earth have no basis for determining what is right and wrong. Perhaps the evolutionist can say that whatever helps man is good, since man is at the apex of the evolutionary process. But which men? Usually it works out that whatever helps me is good; let the other guy be hanged! And so without God survival of the fittest becomes a grim moral system based on selfishness and might makes right. But the God who is good and pure has revealed to us His standards of right and wrong.

So the creation account shows us that God is the sovereign, powerful, intelligent, orderly, personal, good Creator.

3. The creation account calls us to worship, enjoy, and obey the Creator.

When we see the wonders of what God has made, including the marvels of our bodies, it should cause us to exclaim with the psalmist, “Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Ps. 95:6). When we enjoy a beautiful sunset or see the Milky Way on a dark night, we should exclaim, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1). As those who know the Creator personally because we have been reconciled to Him through faith in Christ our Savior, we can truly revel in and enjoy the world that He has made, even though it is marred by man’s sin. We can live each day in submission to His will as revealed in His Word, fulfilling the purpose He has ordained for our lives.

Part of our enjoyment of God involves enjoying Him through the beauty of His creation. I encourage you to recover the wonder that children have over the beauty of a butterfly or the marvels of a pretty rock or the delicacy of a spider’s web or delight in a rainbow. Also, the fact that God is creative gives affirmation to a Christian’s involvement in the arts. When we enjoy or create a painting, sculpture, photograph, music, or literature, we are sharing in a gift from God, the ultimate Creator.

Part of our obedience to God the Creator means being careful, responsible stewards of the earth and its resources. It seems to me that a lot of the environmental issues being debated in our country today are being polarized by extremists on both sides. As stewards over the earth, we can use the earth’s resources in a responsible manner, but it is sin to waste, destroy, and exploit the earth with no regard to the impact we’re making.


God is not only the Creator of heaven and earth; He also creates new life in those who have been damaged and destroyed by sin. The Bible proclaims, “... if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation ...” (2 Cor. 5:17). Sin plunges our lives into chaos, emptiness, and darkness. God’s Spirit moved into that first formless void, and God spoke the word: “Let there be light”; and there was light. Even so, in speaking of the power of the gospel, and alluding to his own dramatic conversion with the blinding flash of light on the Damascus Road, Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:5).

It is the nature of the Creator God to turn chaos into order, emptiness into fulfillment, and darkness into light. He still uses His Word to break through the chaos and darkness of the human condition, flooding it with His saving light. His Spirit hovers over lives, preparing them for God to make of them a new creation. Seek God in His Word and ask Him to create in you a clean heart through Christ.

Discussion Questions

  1. What was Moses’ intention in writing Genesis 1? Why is this an important question to answer?
  2. Should Christians eschew or pursue scientific knowledge and investigation? Why?
  3. Is there a “Christian” philosophy of beauty, art, and music? Is some art and music anti-Christian? How can we tell?
  4. Where is a proper biblical balance on the environmental debate? Which Scriptures are relevant?

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Worship

Lesson 4: Why God Created People (Genesis 1:26-31)

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A couple of years ago a guy who was burned out from riding his bike across the country stopped at the church and gave me his bike, including everything on it--a backpack tent, saddlebags, and a number of bike tools. Included among the tools were a couple of gizmos that I had no idea what they were for. Since then, Daniel and I have figured out what one of them does, but the purpose for the other one still eludes us. Tools that you don’t know the purpose for are of no use.

More important than knowing the purpose for tools is knowing the purpose for your life. Why did God create human beings? What is the reason God has put us on this planet? Sometimes we may feel like the man who said, “I’ve got a clock that tells me when to get up--but some days I need one to tell me why.” It is not surprising that Genesis, the book of origins, tells us early on why God created people.

To understand our text, we need to understand the sweep of God’s purpose as revealed throughout the Scriptures. Behind God’s purpose in creating man is His conflict with Satan and the fallen angels. Before he fell into sin, Satan “had the seal of perfection,” and was “in Eden, the garden of God.” (The only biblical hints of Satan’s fall are in Isa. 14:12-15 & Ezek. 28:12-16.) It is possible that Satan, before his fall, ruled an earlier earth under God. When he rebelled and led a number of angelic forces with him, God brought a judgment on that original creation, resulting in the chaos, emptiness, and darkness of Genesis 1:2 (the “gap theory”). In the recreated earth, God’s purpose is to have man on earth reflecting His image and having dominion over the earth under His sovereignty. Even if you do not accept the “gap theory,” it is clear that God put man on the earth to reflect His image and to rule over the creation (Gen. 1:26, 28).

But to whom was man to reflect God’s image? There wasn’t anybody except Adam and Eve. Once others were born, people could reflect God’s image to one another, thus glorifying God. But that isn’t the full picture. The more complete answer is, the man and woman were to reflect God’s image to the angelic hosts, both good and evil. God put man here to have dominion in place of Satan. The earth is the theater for God’s ultimate victory over Satan and the fallen angels. Satan wants to defy God by ruling the earth. So he came to the first couple and tempted them to follow him in rebellion against God. When they fell into sin, God’s purpose for the earth was temporarily thwarted as Adam and Eve came under Satan’s rule. Thus, for the present Satan is recognized as the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30). But God regained dominion through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (John 12:31; Eph. 1:19-23).

But how does Christ exercise His dominion? One day He will return and rule the earth, but for now He is not physically present on the earth. In Ephesians Paul reveals that Christ’s dominion is to be exercised and God’s image is to be reflected through the church and through the unit of the church, the home. There are a number of parallels between Genesis and Ephesians. Adam is a type of Christ; Eve is a type of the church. Just as Eve was taken from Adam in his sleep and given to him after he awoke as his bride, a part of his body (Gen. 2:18-24), so the Church was brought forth as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection, given to Him as His bride and body (Eph. 5:25-27; 1:19-23). Together, as male and female (Gen. 1:27), the first man was to reflect God’s image. The church is the corporate “new man,” Head and body, Bridegroom and Bride, created in God’s image to have dominion over Satan (Eph. 1:22-23; 2:15-16; 4:24; 5:32; 6:10-20; Col. 3:10). Thus it is through the church (and its unit, the home) that Christ is regaining that which was lost in the fall.

Note Ephesians 3:9-12. Paul is explaining his ministry in light of God’s eternal purpose. In verse 9 he refers to “God, who created all things.” Why does Paul bring in the creation at this juncture? Because he is talking about God’s purpose in creation, namely, to have a corporate man on earth reflecting His image and exercising dominion. Christ and the church are that new creation. The manifold wisdom of God is now to be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places in accordance with God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:10-11; 6:10-18).

The home, as the unit of the church, is also to have a part in God’s purpose for the earth, since the marriage relationship is an earthly picture of Christ and the church (Eph. 5:22-33). As a husband and wife live together in unity in the context of their proper roles (male and female, equal and yet distinct; equal and yet in proper headship and submission), their home becomes an outpost of God’s rule. Thus marriage fits into God’s purpose for the earth, that of defeating Satan and his forces. There will be no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:29-30), when Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. With that as a theological and biblical background, let’s go to Genesis 1:26-31 and see why God created people, namely, ...

God created people to reflect His image, to rule over creation, and to reproduce godly offspring.

1. God created people to reflect His image.

The first thing that strikes us is the repetition of the plural pronouns in reference to God: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (1:26). Jewish scholars usually explain this as God talking to the angels. But Scripture is clear that God did not take counsel with the angels when He created man (Isa. 40:12-26; 44:24), and besides, He didn’t create man in the image of Himself along with the angels. While it would go too far to say that the plural pronoun teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, it is correct to say that it allows for the later revelation of that doctrine. We have here a consultation among the persons of the Godhead prior to the creation of man. There is one God, but He exists in three eternal, co-equal Persons, the same in substance, but distinct in subsistence. That sounds paradoxical, and it is impossible for our finite minds to grasp. But it is the clear revelation of Scripture. Man in God’s image is one (“him”) and yet is plural (“male and female”).

Second, note that it is affirmed three times over (1:27) that God created man, twice emphasizing “in His image.” There is no room for harmonizing the Genesis account with an evolutionary origin of man. God created man distinct from animals. Only man is made in God’s image.

What does it mean that man is made in God’s image and likeness? I take the two words as synonymous, used in combined form to add either intensity or clarification. While theologians debate the precise meaning of the image of God in man, I think the essential feature is that man (as male and female) is able to reflect “God-likeness.” Obviously, finite human beings, even before the fall, cannot reflect completely or accurately the eternal, infinite nature of God. But with his personality, intelligence, and ability to know and relate to God, man is able to reflect God-likeness in a limited way.

Two texts dealing with God’s creation of the new man help us understand what this means. In Ephesians 4:24, Paul says that the believer has put on “the new man [lit.], which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” In Colossians 3:10, he states that we have put on “the new man [lit.] who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.” Thus righteousness, holiness, truth, and the knowledge of God are included in what it means to be created in the image of God.

Also, part of the divine image involves the submission of the Son to the Father in the context of equality. The Father and the Son are equal in personhood, both possessing all the attributes of deity. But in order to carry out the divine purpose, the Son voluntarily submitted to the Father. In a similar way, the submission of the wife to the husband and of women in the church to male leadership, all in the context of being equal in personhood and standing before God, is bound up with man (as male and female) created in the divine image. Being created in God’s image is, therefore, not only an individual matter, but a corporate one. It involves how we relate to one another as husband and wife in marriage, and as men and women in the local church. It is no accident that the roles of men and women are under strong attack in our day.

While the image of God in man was tarnished by the fall, it was not eradicated. While unredeemed men and women are not able to reflect the divine image to the same degree as those who are being conformed to the image of His Son through sanctification (Rom. 8:29), there is even in fallen man a vestige of the divine image. Thus God later ordained capital punishment for murder, because men are made in God’s image (Gen. 9:6; see also, James 3:9). This image in fallen man includes the aspects of personality, intellect, moral responsibility, and consciousness of God. Although unredeemed men are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1), each person possesses a spirit (1 Cor. 2:11) which, when regenerated, is capable of communion with God, who is Spirit (John 4:24).

The fact that human beings have been created in God’s image has many practical implications. The first is, unless you are rightly related to the Creator, your life has no lasting purpose. You are born, grow up, live a few years trying to make a comfortable existence, but your body too soon grows old and you die (assuming you don’t die sooner)! What’s the point of it? But if you know the eternal God through the Lord Jesus Christ who revealed Him to us and who, by His death and resurrection, opened the way for us to be forgiven and to have fellowship with our Creator, both now and for all eternity, then your life has purpose and meaning beyond the grave. In the well-known words of Augustine, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee!”

That every human, male and female, is created in God’s image also means that human life is valuable and every person must be treated with respect. The unborn baby is not to be killed because it is not convenient to have a child, or because the parents prefer having a boy instead of a girl. Even if that child is deformed or mentally deficient, it is still human life, valuable in God’s sight. At the other end of life, the elderly, even those who can no longer think clearly, must be treated with dignity and care. Abortion and euthanasia cheapen the value of human life. This doctrine also is the basis for treating women with the same respect granted to men, because the text is clear that the female, as well as the male, is created in the divine image.

The fact that those in Christ have “put on the new man, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:24), means that we must committed to growing in godliness. We are to reflect God’s image in every aspect and area of our lives, especially in our families. Much more could be said, but we must move on. Stemming from the fact that God made man in His image is a second purpose:

2. God created people to rule over creation.

“Let them rule” (1:26) is the consequence of “Let Us make man in Our image.” God gave the right of dominion over all living things to man. The command to subdue it (1:28) implies that there was work involved, even in the perfect setting of the Garden, to bring the creation under man’s rightful dominion. This dominion involves a stewardship of the earth and its resources under the sovereignty of God.

Fallen man has gone in two directions when it comes to the earth and its resources. Either he has tended to spoil the creation, through pollution and other forms of wanton disregard; or he has been ruled by creation, through false worship of nature. The two extremes exist in our society: some want to rape the land for their own profit or enjoyment; and others hold a reverential awe for nature, making man subservient even to the animals. Neither extreme is in biblical balance.

Apparently in the original creation, both man and beasts were vegetarian (1:29-30; although Calvin and others question this). Isaiah prophesies (11:6-8; 65:25) that in the millennial kingdom, when the world is under the reign of Christ, animals will not prey upon other animals, but that the bear and lion will graze like cows, thus restoring creation to its state before the fall. After the Flood God gave explicit permission for men to eat meat, as long as they did not eat the blood (Gen. 9:3-4).

Does that mean that it’s more spiritual to be a vegetarian? Before you jump to that conclusion, remember that the Lord and two angels ate beef when they visited Abraham (Gen. 18:7-8). God ordained for the priests, for whom personal holiness was essential, to eat part of the sacrifices (1 Cor. 9:13). Jesus ate roasted lamb (the Passover, Luke 22:15) as well as broiled fish (after the resurrection, Luke 24:42-43). So while you are free not to eat meat for dietary reasons if you so choose, you are not more sanctified by abstaining.

Man ruled creation before the fall. But when Satan got man to obey him, then Satan became the ruler of this world. For man to regain his rightful place of dominion over this world, he must exercise dominion not only over the material world, but also over the spiritual forces of darkness (Eph. 6:10-20). This can only be gained by becoming a member of the body of Christ, the Head, who through His resurrection has been elevated to the place of dominion over all things (Eph. 1:19-23). And so a major part of our purpose as the church, is to exercise dominion for Christ over Satan and his forces through spiritual warfare.

The practical implication of our ruling over creation is that we must put on the full armor of God and, especially, become people of prayer (Eph. 6:13-17, esp. 18-19). When Peter talks of the roles of husband and wife in marriage, he tells the husband to grant his wife honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, and then adds, “so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). Thus both in the church and in our homes we are to rule over all creation, but especially over the spiritual forces of darkness, under the authority of Christ through prayer.

So God put us on this earth to reflect His image and to rule over creation. There’s a third reason indicated in our text:

3. God created people to reproduce godly offspring.

“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (1:28). This is both God’s pronouncement of blessing as well as His delegation of responsibility. The blessing of sharing in God’s creative process by producing offspring was given to other living things besides man (1:22, 24-25). But man alone was commanded not only to fill the earth, but also to subdue it. This requires not only bearing children, but rearing godly children who will properly subdue the earth under God. By producing ungodly children man fills, but does not subdue, the earth.

How should we apply this verse today? Roman Catholics, of course, have taken it to mean that birth control is wrong and that the major purpose of marriage is to bear children. But also many Protestants advocate not practicing any form of artificial birth control and having as many children as possible. But we need to be careful to apply the verse correctly.

Clearly, the text does not mean that every person must get married and have children to fulfill God’s purpose. Neither Jesus nor the apostle Paul would have qualified if it means that. But it does mean that children are to be viewed as blessings from God. That needs to be said in our day when many couples choose not to have children so they can selfishly pursue their careers and materialistic lifestyles. While I believe that there is a biblical case for using means to prevent conception within Christian marriage, there are right and wrong reasons for using such means. Selfishness is never a proper motive. Our children are one of the greatest blessings and biggest responsibilities God entrusts to us. We need to take the time and effort to see each child come to know Christ and to be trained in His ways.

But I believe that there also is a spiritual application of Genesis 1:28: To reproduce godly offspring means that we all must be involved in the work of evangelism. To fill the earth and subdue it means that we’ve got to subdue the ruler of the earth, Satan, by rescuing people from his domain of darkness and seeing them transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13). People cannot reflect God’s image, rule over His creation, and reproduce godly offspring unless they live under the lordship of Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews makes this spiritual application when he attributes to Christ the words, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me” (Heb. 2:13). One of God’s greatest blessings is when He gives you spiritual children, fruit that remains through all eternity!

As I wrote in the last newsletter, evangelism is not my gift. I struggle with doing it as much as any of you do. But we need to put on the front burner the fact that part of our purpose for being on this earth is to reproduce godly offspring, not just with our own children, but also by bearing witness of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that others will come to know their Creator and their purpose for being here.


A man died and they put on his tombstone: “He came, stayed a while, and left.” Sad epitaph! But what if it had said, “He came, stayed a while, got married, worked at his job, raised a family, and left”? Throw in, “He became a success in his career and made a pile of money.” It’s still missing the purpose for which God created us.

God made us individually, and as male and female in our marriages, and corporately as His church, to reflect His image by being godly people. He made us to rule over His creation as responsible stewards of the earth, and to rule over the ruler of this fallen world as we exercise the authority of Christ our Head through prayer. He made us to reproduce godly offspring, both in our families and in our church family through bearing spiritual children.

That’s why God created people. That’s why He created you--to know and grow to be like the One in whose image you were created; to reign with Him; and, to be used by Him in His kingdom. You will be restless, confused, or lacking in fulfillment until you begin living in line with God’s purpose for creating you.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does our being created in the image of God provide a biblical basis for “self-esteem”? Why/why not?
  2. If someone argued that seriously deformed babies are not made in God’s image, how would you answer? What Scriptures apply?
  3. To what extent are spiritual forces behind everyday events? Should we attribute problems to demonic influence?
  4. Some Christians think that all artificial means of birth control are wrong. Agree/disagree? Support your position biblically.

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Creation, Man (Anthropology), Spiritual Life

Lesson 5: God’s Day Of Rest (Genesis 2:1-3)

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If you or I had lived in colonial America and behaved as we do, we all would have spent time in jail, our arms and feet locked into the stocks in public humiliation. Why? Because each one of us has traveled and done things for recreation on Sunday. It was called “sabbath breaking,” and it was against the law.

C. H. Mackintosh, a popular Plymouth Brethren devotional writer of the last century, wrote,

The idea of any one, calling himself a Christian, making the Lord’s day a season of what is popularly called recreation, unnecessary traveling, personal convenience, or profit in temporal things, is perfectly shocking. We are of opinion that such acting could not be too severely censured. We can safely assert that we never yet came in contact with a godly, intelligent, right-minded Christian person who did not love and reverence the Lord’s day; nor could we have any sympathy with any one who could deliberately desecrate that holy and happy day. (Miscellaneous Writings, “A Scriptural Inquiry as to the Sabbath, the Law, and Christian Ministry” [Loizeaux Brothers], 3:6-7.)

I’m not in full agreement with these views. But I want you to see that “We’ve come a long way, baby!” Most American Christians never think twice about watching football games or mowing their lawn or doing other things on Sundays that would send C. H. Mackintosh into cardiac arrest. Some progressive evangelical churches even offer a Friday night service so that their people can have the rest of the weekend free for whatever they want to do.

What does the Bible have to say about all this? The good news is that it has quite a bit to say; the bad news is that it isn’t always clear how to apply what it says to the church age. So you have everything from strict Seventh Day Baptists and Adventists to evangelicals who see no Christian significance at all in the sabbath or Lord’s Day. Each of us must try to rid ourselves of any cultural bias and try to answer the question, “What does the Bible teach about the sabbath for today?”

Genesis 2:1-3, describes God’s day of rest, the seventh day of creation. God is omnipotent and could have spoken the whole creation into existence in an instant. When He was done, God didn’t need a day off because He was exhausted! God created the world in six days and rested on and sanctified the seventh day to instruct us. By His action at the beginning, God is telling us that there is a pattern of work and rest for our existence on earth. God’s setting apart the seventh day models the weekly rest and worship we need. Created to reflect His image, we must follow His pattern. Thus our text shows that

God has called us to a weekly day of rest and worship.

I want to answer three questions:

  1. What is the sabbath for?
  2. Must Christians keep the sabbath? And, if so,
  3. How should we keep the sabbath?

What is the sabbath for?

1. The sabbath is for rest and worship.

The Hebrew word “rested” is the root word for “sabbath.” It means to cease from busyness. Exodus 31:17 says that God “ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” The fact that God blessed and sanctified (= “set apart”) this day at the completion of creation implies that we are to set apart one day in seven to be different from our normal routine. On that day we who are made in His likeness are to cease from the work of the other days and be refreshed in body and soul as we spend time worshiping our Creator.

There is a big difference between the rest God intends for us and the so-called “rest” of pursuing leisure and recreation. We probably have more leisure time and recreational equipment than any other culture in history, and yet we’re burning out like light bulbs. Lots of people are “stressed out.” I can’t help but wonder if a major part of our problem is that we’re neglecting God’s ordained cycle of a weekly day for rest and worship, when we cease doing “our thing,” and devote the day to taking delight in the Lord (Isa. 58:13-14). Recreation may refresh the body, but we need worship to refresh the soul. Recreation is often self-centered, but worship focuses us on the Lord. As Calvin puts it, “God did not command men simply to keep holiday every seventh day, as if he delighted in their indolence; but rather that they, being released from all other business, might the more readily apply their minds to the Creator of the world” (Calvin’s Commentaries [Associated Publishers & Authors], 1:15).

That God sanctified and blessed the seventh day means that it is a special day, set apart from the other six days. Since He sanctified and blessed this day, it belongs to Him, not to us. It should not be a day for doing what we normally do, but rather a day to take the time out of our busy lives to spend with the Lord and His people. Often we’re so busy during the week that time with the Lord gets squeezed out or hurried. We don’t take time to read God’s Word, to pray, or to reflect on whether our lives are pleasing to Him. Taking time to spend with someone is a way of saying, “I love you, you’re important to me.” Taking one day each week to be with the Lord says, “Lord, I love you and want to get to know You better because You’re first in my life.” On this set apart day, we should rest from our normal work and take the time to be with the Lord and to worship with His people.

What is God’s intent for such rest and worship?

2. Sabbath rest and worship are both to honor God and to benefit man.

The first day of existence for Adam was a day of rest. Later God assigned him tasks to do, but the first order of business for this newly created man was a day of rest. What do you suppose Adam did that day? It’s likely that God told Adam about the world He had just created. Thus Adam, in communion with God, living in a perfect environment, reflected on the greatness and majesty and goodness of God. He enjoyed fellowship with God and thought about the wonder of himself, a creature, being able to commune with God, the Creator. The first sabbath was spent in rest and worship.

Worship is not for our benefit, but to honor God as the Almighty Creator and Redeemer, who alone is worthy of praise and glory. But the by-product of worship is that we are blessed by blessing God. So when we set aside one day in seven to stop doing our normal work and to worship God, we are benefited. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).

You say, “That’s all well and good so far as it pertained to Adam and later to Israel. But we’re not under the law, are we?” That leads to the second question:

Must christians keep the sabbath?

Here the controversy rages! There are three main views. Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists say that Christians must strictly observe Saturday as sabbath as ordained by God at creation and in the Mosaic law. A second view, following the Westminster Confession, transfers sabbath observance to Sunday, making it a Christian sabbath. The third view is that the sabbath was a part of the law of Israel; since we are not under the law, it is not applicable to the church at all. This is probably the view of most evangelicals in our day.

I’m somewhere between the second and third view. I do not believe that Sunday should be a strictly observed Christian sabbath; but neither am I comfortable casting off the sabbath principles altogether. Sunday is the Lord’s Day (Rev. 1:10); this means it belongs to Him. There are principles in the sabbath, both as established at creation and under the Mosaic law, which apply to the Christian observance (or celebration) of the Lord’s Day. While we are not under the law, there is much in the law which applies beneficially to us. The prevailing view today, which sees Sunday as a day to go to church and then do whatever you please, is robbing God’s people of the blessing He intended at creation by setting apart one day in seven to cease from our work and to focus on our Creator and Redeemer.

1. The principle of sabbath stemming from both creation and the law is valid for today.

There is debate about whether the sabbath was instituted at creation, with application to all people, or in the Ten Commandments as applying only to Israel. Those who say it was only for Israel argue that Genesis 2 and Exodus 16 (both of which occur before the giving of the Ten Commandments) were anticipatory, not prescriptive. Without going into all the arguments pro and con, it seems to me that a normal reading of Genesis 2:1-3 would lead us to say that God’s ordering of the creation and resting on the seventh day had some instructive purpose as it applied to Adam and all his descendants. There is a rhythm of work and rest built into creation, and it applies to all who are created in God’s image, whether they know it or observe it or not.

Another debate concerns whether the sabbath as the fourth commandment is a part of the moral or ceremonial law. If it is a part of the ceremonial law, then obviously we need not regard it, since no Christian claims that we must observe the Jewish laws of diet, purification, sacrifice, etc. But if it is part of the moral law, then it would be binding on us, since the moral law stems from the holiness of God and does not change.

It would be tough to argue that there is no moral aspect to the sabbath commandment, since the rest of the Ten Commandments are clearly moral. The moral aspect is the fact that it provides for the regular worship of God, which is binding upon all human beings. But there are also ceremonial aspects to the sabbath which applied to Israel alone: The people could not do any work at all. They could not even kindle a fire (Exod. 35:2-3). A man caught gathering sticks on the sabbath was stoned to death (Num. 15:32-36). And yet Jesus defended His disciples for plucking grain on the sabbath, which He never would have done if they had broken the moral law of God (Matt. 12:1-8).

As Christians, we are not under the law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14; Col. 2:16-17). The meaning of that is a sticky theological issue, but I see it as entailing two things. In the first place, we are not under the Jewish ceremonial law nor under the laws which applied to Israel as a theocratic nation. We don’t have to wash in order to be ceremonially clean. We don’t stone adulterers, homosexuals, and rebellious children. Those things applied only to Israel as the theocratic people of God. Second, not to be under the law means that we are not under the principle of law as a means of relating to God. The law was given in part to show sinful man that he could not live up to the holiness of God in his own effort. Under grace, God gives us the Holy Spirit so that the requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-4; 10:4).

When it comes to the sabbath, then, we are not under the rigorous Jewish regulations for that day. But there is a moral aspect to the sabbath, that of the proper worship of God and stewardship of our lives, which requires that we set aside a day each week for rest from our normal work so that we can worship God. It stems both from creation and from the moral law of God as revealed in the Ten Commandments. As we walk in the Spirit and grow in the love of God, He will work in us the desire to honor Him by setting aside a day for Him each week, not as a duty of law, but as a delight of love.

But, which day: Saturday? Sunday? Friday evening?

2. The day of sabbath rest and worship for the Christian should be Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

I disagree with those who worship on Saturday. But I also disagree with progressive evangelical churches which have a congregation that meets only on Friday evening (or some other day), but not on Sunday. I think there are solid reasons why we should set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day.

The main reason it’s important to observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day is that our Lord arose from the dead on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). That fact alone is enough reason to gather in celebration on Sunday. At least six of our Lord’s eight resurrection appearances recorded in the gospels took place on Sunday.

It was on Sunday that the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost. The early church gathered on Sunday to break bread, listen to the teaching of the Scriptures, and give offerings (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2). It was on “the Lord’s Day” that John received that great revelation of Christ in His present glory (Rev. 1:10). In addition, from early in the second century on there are many testimonies that the Christians gathered on Sunday for worship (see The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible [Zondervan], 3:965-971). By worshiping on the Lord’s Day we affirm His resurrection along with the saints down through history. So it is important to set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day, a day when the principle (not the letter) of the sabbath can be observed.

Thus we have seen that the sabbath is for rest and worship, a day designed to honor God but also for our blessing. Also, we have seen that there is a sabbath principle stemming both from creation and the law which is valid for today, and that Christians should set aside Sunday as the Lord’s Day for observing that sabbath principle. One question remains:

How should we keep the sabbath?

As I said, I don’t agree with calling the Lord’s Day a Christian sabbath, so perhaps we should ask, How should we observe the Lord’s Day? Should we require our kids not to play? Are we allowed to go the store or mall? Should we go to restaurants, thus making others work? What about those who have jobs that require them to work on Sundays? I can’t deal with every question you may have, but let me state two broad principles for observing the Lord’s Day.

1. Don’t observe it legalistically.

Martin Luther, with his characteristic bluster, said, “If anywhere the day is made holy for the mere day’s sake--if anywhere anyone sets up its observance on a Jewish foundation, then I order you to work on it, to ride on it, to dance on it, to feast on it, to do anything that shall remove this encroachment on Christian liberty” (cited in ZPEB 3:969).

God looks on our hearts, not on outward observance of man-made rules. The history of the Jews shows how prone we all are to set up rules that are not from God and take pride in keeping them, even though our hearts are far from God. We all tend to judge others by our own standards, based on outward matters. All such judging is sin because it stems from pride. The idea of the Lord’s Day is not to produce a list of things you can and cannot do. Legalism doesn’t produce godliness (Col. 2:16-23).

2. Observe it joyfully before God.

View the Lord’s Day as a gift from God, not as a duty to be fulfilled. God has established many principles for our benefit, principles of health, nutrition, mental outlook, emotional well-being, relationships, etc. The principle of one day each week set aside from our hectic lives to rest and worship God is for our benefit. The God who made us built the principle into creation, and we violate it, just as we do the law of gravity, to our own peril. God blessed the seventh day and set it apart, and there is blessing for us if we honor Him one day each week.

Gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day. It ought to be a day of celebrating the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ with others He has redeemed. Part of your time on Sunday ought to be spent reflecting on who God is as our Creator and Savior. Think about His sacrificial death for you. Rejoice in the finished work of Christ, that you can rest in all that He is and cease from your own efforts to merit God’s favor through good works (Heb. 4:1-11). Reflect on your own relationship to Him. Think back over the week that has just gone by. Did it reflect the direction it should for a child of God? Think about the week to come. Does your schedule reflect the proper priorities? Make sure that any known sin is confessed and put away. Sin robs us of God’s rest. Use the Lord’s Day to serve Him and do good deeds.


Jonathan Edwards points out that since God sanctified and blessed the sabbath, since the risen Lord Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples on Sunday, and since He poured out His Spirit on the church on that day, it is a day when the Lord especially delights to confer His grace and blessing on those who seek Him (The Works of Jonathan Edwards [Banner of Truth], 2:101-102). If Jesus appeared bodily to you and said, “I would like to spend the day with you and give you a special blessing,” would you say, “I’d really like to, Lord, but my day is full. After church I need to get some things done around the house. I need to run over to the mall and do some shopping. And, there are a couple of shows on TV I don’t want to miss. Maybe some other time?” Every Sunday the Lord is saying, “I want to spend this day with you and bless you. Will you set this day apart for Me?”

Observing a weekly day set aside unto the Lord is a gift of our time. It’s not really our time, since God graciously gives us every day. But He asks us to give that first day each week back to Him. It’s not easy in our busy world to stop and give God our time. The busier you are, the more you honor someone when you give him your time. If you were the President and you gave someone an entire day each week, you are showing that person great honor. Giving the Lord one day each week says that you honor Him. It’s like giving money--it’s never easy. It always costs you something. But if you give only that which doesn’t cost you, you don’t really give.

Giving to the Lord a day each week from our busy schedules will cost us time from our many projects and plans, but we will be blessed for doing it. The Lord said through Isaiah, “If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from seeking your own pleasure, and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; and I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father” (Isa. 58:13-14). God blessed and sanctified one day a week; so should we.

Discussion Questions

  1. How should a Christian whose job requires him to work on Sunday deal with the sabbath principle?
  2. How can we keep the sabbath principle without falling into legalism?
  3. How should a Christian family determine what activities are permissible on Sundays? Why does it matter?
  4. Should the principle of Deut. 5:14 be applied by Christian businessmen to mean that their business should not be open on Sundays? What about a business (restaurant, grocery store, real estate, etc.) which depends on Sunday business to survive?

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

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Lesson 6: Understanding Who We Are (Genesis 2:4-17)

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Henry Ford is reputed to have scoffed, “History is bunk!” But I am inclined to side with Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who said, “When I want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, I look back.” He also observed, “A page of history is worth a volume of logic” (in Peter’s Quotations [Bantam Books], p. 244). History helps us understand who we are by showing us where we have come from. This is even more true of the inspired history recorded in Scripture for our growth in godliness (Rom. 15:4).

Modern man suffers from an identity crisis. Science tells us that we descended from the apes by sheer chance. If you believe that interpretation of history, it will drastically affect the way you think and live. It cuts you off from a relationship with an all-wise, all-powerful Creator who made you in His image. It robs you of any significant meaning in life. It destroys any basis for hope for the future. If human beings are the product of random chance, the bottom line is, “Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Cor. 15:32).

But that view fails to explain why we are different from the apes and other animals. It has no basis for explaining the fact, as Calvin puts it (citing Cicero), that there is “no nation so barbarous, no people so savage, that they have not a deep-seated conviction that there is a God.” As Calvin goes on to observe, even professing atheists at times “feel an inkling of what they desire not to believe” (Institutes of the Christian Religion [Westminster Press], I:III:1, 2). It is ironic that atheistic humanism, which claims to exalt man as the center of all things, actually degrades man as being merely the chance mutation from the apes. The biblical view of man, as presented in these early chapters of Genesis, explains both man’s unique difference from other animals, in that we are created in the image of God; and man’s perverse depravity, due to the historic fall of the human race into sin.

Critics have dismissed Genesis 2 as being a second, often contradictory, “creation myth,” added to chapter 1 by some editor. This view assumes that because of the different name used for God, Moses did not write chapter 2. It also implies that the man who pieced the two chapters together was lacking in intelligence since he did not notice the supposed discrepancies in the two accounts. But if we proceed on the assumption that Moses wrote it and that he was not stupid, it becomes evident that even apart from divine inspiration, it is a piece of skillful literature. Genesis 1 is the big picture; chapter 2 is the detail. Chapter 1 is a chronological account; chapter 2 is a logical account, designed to set the stage for the crucial events of chapter 3. H. C. Leupold says, “Practically everything written in chapter two definitely paves the way for chapter three” (Exposition of Genesis [Baker], 1:116).

The chapter should begin with verse 4 (the chapter breaks were added centuries later), which states, “This is the account of ....” It translates a Hebrew word used 10 times in Genesis to introduce new sections (2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, [9]; 37:2), and means, “this is the history of.” It shows that the early chapters of Genesis are just as much history as the later chapters. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 give us the history “of the heavens and earth in the day when the Lord God made earth and heaven.” Thus we learn from the outset that the history of earth (man) is bound up with heaven (God). Genesis 2 helps us understand who we are and how to interpret our existence on earth. We must see ourselves in relationship to God and His creation.

Our text brings out three themes: (1) We are created by God to relate to Him; (2) God has given us productive work as the means of providing our basic need for food; and, (3) God has made us to be morally responsible to Him. A fourth theme of chapter 2, which we will explore next time, is that God has provided the institution of marriage for our good. Genesis 2:4-17 teaches that ...

God created us to relate to Him, to engage in productive work, and to be morally responsible to Him.

1. God created us to relate to Him.

Moses brings out this theme in several ways. One is the frequent use of Yahweh Elohim (“LORD God”). It is used 20 times in Genesis 2 & 3, but only one other time in the entire Pentateuch (Exod. 9:30) and less than 10 times in the other books of the Old Testament (Commentary on the Old Testament [Eerdmans], by C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, 1:72; hereafter, K & D). It is obviously deliberate on the part of Moses to show that Yahweh, “who visited man in paradise, who punished him for the transgression of His command, but gave him a promise of victory over the tempter, was Elohim, the same God, who created the heavens and the earth” (K & D, p. 73).

Elohim comes from a word meaning “to fear,” and signifies “the highest Being to be feared.” It is a plural word which expresses “the notion of God in the fulness and multiplicity of the divine powers.... In this intensive sense Elohim depicts the one true God as the infinitely great and exalted One, who created the heavens and the earth, and who preserves and governs every creature” (ibid.).

Yahweh is God’s personal name as the covenant God of Israel. It is the name by which God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exod. 3:13-16). It comes from the Hebrew verb “to be,” so that God tells Moses His name is, “I am who I am.” It means that God is the self-existent, self-determining one, the absolute Being of all beings. It “includes both the absolute independence of God in His historical movements,” and “the absolute constancy of God, or the fact that in everything, in both words and deeds, He is essentially in harmony with Himself, remaining always consistent” (Oehler, quoted in K & D, p. 75). Since Yahweh is God’s personal name, it also points to Him as the God of our salvation (the above based on, K & D, 1:73-75).

Thus by linking these two names Moses is telling Israel that their God, the God of the covenant, who led them out of Egypt, is the same Creator God who made man and desires to bless all who obey Him. The God of creation is thus also the God of history and salvation, known by His people.

Another way Moses brings out the truth that we were created to relate to God is by showing the personal attention and deliberate care that God used in forming first Adam, then Eve. The picture (in 2:7) is that of a potter taking the clay and carefully molding it into “a living being.” While this term is also used of other animals (1:20, 21, 24, 30), it is used in a special sense here of man, directly receiving face-to-face the breath of God. This is not just air, but God’s vital, life-giving breath. Life didn’t happen by some accidental spark of lightning striking some primordial pond, starting a random process that, by sheer chance, some billions of years later, resulted in man. We were carefully designed by an incredibly intelligent God.

Think about the remarkable complexity of the human body. Physically, we are the result of two sets of 23 chromosomes which unite at conception. A single human chromosome contains twenty billion bits of information, which corresponds to about 500 million words, or two million pages. At 500 pages per book, this means that a single human chromosome is equal to about 4,000 volumes of information. We each have 46 chromosomes, or 184,000 volumes of 500 pages each! By way of comparison, the Flagstaff Public Library houses about 160,000 volumes in the downtown branch and in the two bookmobiles.

A person develops miraculously inside the mother’s womb, emerging 9 months later with more than 200 bones, each shaped with exquisite skill to perform its function. To the bones are attached 500 muscles, some large, some small, some obeying human will, others acting apart from human awareness. Our brain has over 10 billion nerve cells connected to the body by a complex nervous system. Our skin has more than two million sweat glands, about 3,000 per square inch, to automatically regulate body temperature. In addition, there are the circulatory, pulmonary, digestive, endocrine, and immune systems; the eye, the ear, the senses of smell, taste, and touch, and our complex emotional make-up, which allows us to feel joy and sadness, delight and disgust, love and hate.

But God created more than our physical bodies. Made of dust, man is related to the other animals (2:19). Made in the image of God, receiving life from God, man has personality and rational and moral capacities which distinguish him from other creatures and fit him for communion with God. That man was made from dust (not gold dust, powder of pearl, or diamond dust, as Matthew Henry observes [p. 14]) forbids pride; that he was made by God in His image reminds us of our high purpose, lost in the fall, but regained through Christ. We need to keep both in balance. As J. Vernon McGee notes, “We’re made of dust, and dust that gets stuck on itself is called mud.” A little boy came to his mother and said, “Mother, is it true that we are made from the dust and that after we die we go back to the dust?” “Yes,” she replied. “Well,” he said, “I looked under my bed this morning, and there’s someone either coming or going!”

A third theme in chapter 2 that shows that God made us to relate to Him is His goodness and care in preparing the earth for man and in supplying those things which are deficient, so that man has all that is needed. Verse 5 lists some deficiencies; verses 6-17 show God’s supply. Verse 18 shows man’s deficiency; verses 19-25, God’s supply. Everything surrounding Adam spoke of the goodness, care, and kindness of his Creator.

Some critics have said that the order of verses 5-8 contradicts the order of creation presented in chapter 1. Here man is seemingly created after the plants. But chapter 2 is not a chronological order, but a logical one. The plants referred to are not all the plants, but rather cultivated plants (“shrub of the field,” “plant of the field”). The text is only saying that plants which are cultivated by man for food were not yet planted by God in the garden, because man was not yet there to tend them. Apparently, God even had installed an automatic sprinkler system!

The location of the garden is described as “to the east, in Eden” (Eden means “delight”), to the east of the Sinai peninsula, where Moses wrote Genesis. Verses 10-14 describe four rivers which flowed out of the garden, two of which we can identify today. We can assume that the earth’s geography has changed sufficiently that we will never know the exact location. But it was somewhere in the area where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers begin (near eastern Turkey).

Some try to read all sorts of symbolic meanings into these verses, but I find such attempts highly subjective. But these verses tell us two things: First, the garden was not a mythical place. It could be located geographically. We’re not dealing with fairy stories, but with actual history. Second, to people trekking across the barren, hot Sinai peninsula, the description of four rivers watering the garden was surely a picture of God’s abundant provision for Adam before the fall. The barrenness of earth is due to man’s sin, not to God’s shortcoming. He created the earth as a beautiful place and put man here to relate to God.

So by these themes, Moses is saying that God created us to relate to Him as He has revealed Himself to us. But since the fall, we are alienated from God and unable to know Him in and of ourselves. God sent His Son Jesus, who is God in human flesh, to pay the penalty for our sin, to reconcile us to Himself, and to reveal God to us. If you do not have a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, you cannot understand who you are or why you exist. But through Christ, you can!

2. God created us to engage in productive work.

Some people think of “Paradise” as a place where you lie in a hammock under a palm tree, never lifting a finger. But God planted a garden and put Adam there to cultivate it and keep it before the fall (2:15). God also assigned Adam the work of naming the animals (2:19-20), a “mental” job. Thus before the fall God gave man both physical and mental labor as legitimate enterprises. A Swedish proverb says, “God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.” Even in paradise, Adam had to work for his food.

Work itself is not the curse; the curse involved the difficulty of working against the curse on creation (3:17-19). Even though we work under the curse, there is value in working to provide for our basic needs. Working with your hands is no less dignified than working with your mind. Both are legitimate, God-given forms of labor which are necessary for sustaining human life. To slaves, whose work was menial at best, Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23-24). Whether you are a janitor or rocket scientist, a housewife or doctor, you can take legitimate satisfaction in the work God has given you to do.

A few years before the fall of Communism, a joke was going around Moscow about two workmen with shovels. One worker would dig a hole every 20 feet along the street. The second worker would come along behind him and fill up the hole, and the process was repeated. A man watching them shouted, “Comrades, what are you doing? You dig a hole, then the other fellow fills it up. You’re wasting the Party’s money!”

“You don’t understand,” one of the workers replies. “Usually we work with a third fellow, Mikhail, but he’s home drunk today. I dig the hole, Mikhail sticks in the tree, and Dimitri here puts the dirt back in the hole. Just because Mikhail is drunk doesn’t mean that Dimitri and I have to stop working.”

Hopefully, your work isn’t that futile! God created us to engage in productive work, and there is satisfaction in doing your work well as unto the Lord. I like how Matthew Henry expresses Adam’s work in the garden, “while his hands were about his trees, his heart might be with his God” (p. 17). He further observes, “As we are not allowed to be idle in this world, and to do nothing, so we are not allowed to be wilful, and do what we please” (p. 17). This is the third theme of Genesis 2:

3. God created us to be morally responsible to Him.

Verse 9 gives the first hint of the test with which Adam was to be confronted: the presence of the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The direct command is in verses 16-17: Adam can eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the day he eats from it, he will die. The presence of these trees show that man, by creation, has a spiritual side. They also reveal that God alone knows what is good and not good for man. James Boice observes, “The presence of this tree would have reminded Adam that he was not his own god and that he was responsible at all times to his maker” (Genesis [Zondervan], 1:104).

God has built certain principles into His universe, and we violate them to our peril. When you tell your child not to touch the stove or he will be burned, you are not threatening him, but lovingly warning him. Out of kindness, God told Adam for his own good that he must make the proper choice when it came to this tree. It was a reasonable test, since God gave permission to eat of every tree except this one (2:16). But banning this one tree made Adam and Eve morally accountable to God. Moral responsibility undergirds all of life and always has consequences.

What was this tree? I think it was literal fruit to which God gave certain spiritual properties. But in what sense was it the knowledge of good and evil? Isn’t it a good thing to know good and evil? Why would God want Adam and Eve not to know this?

Ray Stedman (Understanding Man [Word Books], p.35) points out that when they ate the fruit, they would know good and evil as God does (3:5, 22). God knows good and evil, not by experience (He cannot experience evil), but by relating it to Himself. That which is consistent with God’s nature is good; that which is contrary to it is evil. But only God can do that. Stedman says, “The creatures of God’s universe are made to discover the difference between good and evil by relating all to the Being of God, not to themselves. When man ate of the fruit he began to do what God does--to relate everything to himself.... When man began to think of himself as the center of the universe, he became like God. But it was all a lie. Man is not the center of the universe, and he cannot be” (pp. 35, 36).

This is essentially John Calvin’s understanding. He argues (Commentary, p. 20) that the tree was prohibited so that man might not trust in his own understanding, cast off the yoke of God, and make himself the judge of good and evil. He states (p. 23), “Therefore, abstinence from the fruit of one tree was a kind of first lesson in obedience, that man might know he had a Director and Lord of his life, on whose will he ought to depend, and in whose commands he ought to acquiesce. And this, truly, is the only rule of living well and rationally, that men should exercise themselves in obeying God.” So by eating of this fruit, man substituted his own finite self as the standard of right and wrong, replacing God’s perfect Being as the standard.

When man sinned, the result was death. In the Bible, death is not cessation of existence, but separation. Adam was immediately separated from God, as chapter 3 reveals. Also, the process of physical death was set in motion. If Adam had eaten of the tree of life, apparently he would have lived in his body forever, even after the fall (the implication of 3:22). But God removed that choice by taking man from the garden and sealing its entrance. Since Adam and Eve’s fateful choice, death (both spiritual and physical) has dominated human history. And, since the fall, all men are bound by sin, unable to please God and unable to come to God apart from His sovereign grace (Rom. 8:7-8; 9:15-18).


Years ago the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, who did much to shape modern liberal theology, was sitting alone on a bench in a city park as an old man. A policeman, thinking he was a vagrant, came over and shook him and asked, “Who are you?” Schleiermacher replied sadly, “I wish I knew.”

If you cut yourself off from the historical truths revealed in Genesis 2, that you are a being created by God to relate to Him, to engage in productive work, and to be morally responsible to the Creator, you do not know who you really are. Jesus Christ came to save us from the curse of sin and death. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Through Christ you come to know the eternal God. And, in knowing God, you come to understand who you are, why you were created, and how you should live.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the doctrine of creation essential to knowing God?
  2. Should we seek fulfillment through our work? Can a house maid be as enthralled with her work as a surgeon?
  3. Why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden? Why did He give men the option of sinning?

Copyright 1995, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Creation, Man (Anthropology), Worldview

Lesson 7: God’s Design for Marriage (Genesis 2:18-25)

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Some of you made the mistake of buying your children toys for Christmas that had the ominous words on the box, “Some assembly required.” Of those who did that, a few--very few--read through the directions completely as instructed before you began to assemble the toy. The rest of you thought, “I can figure this out,” and plunged in. But not many of you got the thing assembled without having to dig out the instruction manual!

Marriage comes with the label, “Much assembly required!” It takes a lifetime of work to put it together the right way. Most of us plunged in without carefully reading the instruction manual, confident that we could figure it out. But we quickly get into trouble and frequently need to read and re-read the manufacturer’s instructions. Most of the problems we get into in marriage can be traced to our neglect of reading and obeying God’s instructions.

Early in Genesis we find God’s design for marriage (Gen. 2:18-25). This text describing the original marriage is the basis for almost everything else the Bible says about marriage. It explains God’s reason for designing marriage and also gives us many principles which, if applied, will enable us to build marriages which honor God and bring lasting joy to us. The text teaches us that:

God designed marriage to meet our need for companionship and to provide an illustration of our relationship with Him.

The name used for God, translated “LORD [Yahweh] God” (2:18, 19, 21, 22) emphasizes His covenant relationship with His people. Genesis 1 refers to God as “Elohim,” emphasizing His power as the Creator. Genesis 2 refers to Him as the LORD God, showing that the powerful Creator is also the personal God who cares for His creatures. This caring, personal God knew that the man He created had a need, and so He took action to meet that need.

1. God designed marriage to meet the human need for companionship.

When you read Genesis 1 & 2, the words of 2:18 hit abruptly: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Throughout chapter one, God surveys His work and pronounces it good (1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). This is the first time God says that something in His creation is not good: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Think about it: Here’s a sinless man, in perfect fellowship with God, in a perfect environment. What more could you want? Isn’t that enough? Not according to God! God’s evaluation was that the man needed a human companion to correspond to him.

Sometimes super-spiritual people say that if you’re lonely, there must be something wrong with your spiritual life. But God acknowledges our need not only for fellowship with Him, but also with a life partner. This is not to say that every person needs to be married. Everyone spends many years of life as a single person. God has called some to remain single (1 Cor. 7:7-9). Nor is it to say that marriage will meet all our needs for companionship. Married people need friends of the same sex. But it is to say that a main reason God designed marriage was to meet the human need for companionship. First, we must affirm:

A. God designed marriage.

That means that He knows best how it should operate. His Word gives us the principles we need for satisfying marriages. Since God designed marriage, it takes three to make a good marriage: God, the man, and the woman. For a Christian to marry an unbeliever is not only to disobey God; it is to enter marriage lacking something essential. Marriage has been described as a triangle with God at the top: the closer each partner moves to God, the closer they move toward each other. The further each moves from God, the further they move from each other. As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced alienation from each other and Adam began blaming Eve for his problems (3:7, 12). Broken marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God. So the starting place in having a marriage according to God’s design is genuine conversion and a daily walk with God.

God says that He will make Adam “a helper suitable for him” (2:18). The Hebrew word is not demeaning. It is often used of God’s help for those in distress and for military assistance. It points to the fact that the husband needs and even depends on his wife’s support and help. But we also need to remember Paul’s words that “man was not created for woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake” (1 Cor. 11:9). That verse alone destroys the feminist view that there are no distinctions based on gender. The fact that God created the woman as a helper points to her supportive role to her husband, even before the fall.

But at the same time, there is no basis for the view that men are superior to women. God made the woman to be a helper “suitable for” (lit. = “corresponding to”) the man. The picture is that the woman is the missing part of the man. Just as a jigsaw puzzle is incomplete if half the pieces are missing, so a man is incomplete without his wife. God designed it so that the man needs the woman and the woman needs the man (see 1 Cor. 11:11). Both are equal persons and yet have distinct roles to fulfill.

God made Adam out of the dust (2:7). Why didn’t He make Eve out of the dust? Why did He make her from Adam’s rib (2:21-22)? I believe God did it to show Adam that his wife was a part of him, equal with him, not a lower creation. A man is to cherish his wife as his own flesh (Eph. 5:28-29). As has often been observed, she was not taken from Adam’s head to rule over him, nor from his feet, that he should put her down, but she was taken from his side that he would protect her and keep her close to his heart.

Why didn’t God create Adam and Eve simultaneously? Before God created Eve he put Adam through the exercise of naming the animals (2:19-20). Some critics allege that these verses are out of context. There is no basis for that assertion. But why this strange exercise of naming the animals right here? God had a lesson to teach Adam. By naming all the animals, Adam discovered that for every animal there were both male and female. After a few dozen cases--male and female aardvarks, ... and finally, male and female zebras--Adam got to the end of the list and wondered, “Where’s mine?” The forlorn note reads, “but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him” (2:20).

God first made Adam feel the need for a wife. A dog may be man’s best friend, but it could not satisfy Adam’s need for companionship. Only a woman could. God sometimes makes us endure loneliness so that when the need is met, we appreciate it more. I felt the need to get married at 20. The Lord made me wait until just before my 27th birthday. By then I really felt the need. But I also deeply appreciate my wife. I remember how lonely I felt all those years. God prepares us to receive His gifts and then provides for our needs. We need to thank God for the partner He has given us and express our appreciation to that partner. God designed marriage, including your marriage.

This account of the first marriage also plainly teaches that God designed marriage to include sex. Many Christians have ungodly notions about sex. Some think that it was the original sin. I read of one pastor and his wife who announced to their congregation that they would be adopting their first son. One dear old lady told the pastor, “That’s how every pastor and his wife should have children.”

Moses’ description of the creation of Eve is a bit surprising when you stop to think about it. It says that God fashioned a woman from the man’s rib. “Fashioned” is literally, “built.” The verb pictures God as a sculptor, carefully and deliberately shaping the woman into a creature who would meet Adam’s need. Since she was built by God, you could safely say that she was well-built! She was a real beauty. Verse 22 indicates that Adam didn’t wake up and find Eve lying beside him. Rather, God brought her to him. Picture Adam waking up and wondering what the funny feeling in his side was. He’s counting his ribs when he hears God say, “Adam, you forgot to name one creature.” Adam looks up to see Eve, not in a wedding dress, but naked! I’m not making this up--it’s what the text says (2:25)!

We know she was a knockout because of Adam’s response (2:23). These are the first recorded words of the first man. They were not quite as mild as the various translations indicate. A more literal rendering of the original Hebrew is: “ALL RIGHT!” The phrase “this is now” is literally, “Here, now!” or “This one! At last!” Keil and Delitzsch, two German scholars from the last century, translate it, “This time!” and say that it is “expressive of joyous astonishment” (Commentary on the Old Testament [Eerdmans], 1:90). Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, another commentary from Victorian times, say it is emphatic: “Now at last!” Or, “This is the very thing that hits the mark; this reaches what was desired” (A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical [Eerdmans], 1:46). Remember, Adam had been looking through all the animals for one corresponding to him and had come up empty. When God brought Eve to him, he shouted, “YES!”

Next, Adam promptly finished his work of naming the creatures. He recognized that Eve was a part of him and named her accordingly: “She shall be called Woman [Heb., Ishshah] because she was taken out of Man [Heb., Ish].” God brought her to Adam as His exquisitely crafted gift, perfect for Adam’s deepest need.

These verses teach us something important about God: He is not opposed to our enjoyment of sex within marriage. He designed it and gave it to Adam and Eve. Satan tries to malign the goodness of God by making us think that God is trying to take our fun away by restricting sex to marriage. But God knows that it creates major problems when we violate His design for His gift. We need to regard marriage and sex in marriage as God’s good gift, designed for our pleasure, to meet our deepest needs for human companionship. In the context of marriage, we can thankfully enjoy what God has given.

B. God designed marriage to meet our need for companionship.

Verse 24 is Moses’ commentary (Adam didn’t have a father and mother to leave). “For this reason” means, “Because of the way God designed marriage from the start, because the woman is bone of man’s bone and flesh of his flesh, these things hold true.” He shows that to fulfill our need for companionship, marriage must be a primary, permanent, exclusive, and intimate relationship.

(1) Companionship requires that marriage be a primary relationship. God did not create a father and mother for Adam, nor a child, but a wife. A man must leave father and mother in order to cleave to his wife to establish a one flesh relationship. This means that the marriage relationship is primary, not the parent-child relationship. The parent child relationship must be altered before the marriage relationship can be established. The cord must be cut. This doesn’t mean abandoning parents or cutting off contact with them. But it does mean that a person needs enough emotional maturity to break away from dependence upon his parents to enter marriage. And parents need to raise their children with a view to releasing them.

It also means that if a couple builds their marriage around their children, or as more frequently happens, the husband builds his life around his job while the wife builds her life around the children, they are heading for serious problems when it’s time for the nest to empty. It is not helping the children, either. The best way to be a good parent to your children is to be a good husband to their mother or a good wife to their father. Marriage must be primary.

(2) Companionship requires that marriage be a permanent relationship. This follows from it being the primary relationship. Your children are with you in the home a few years; your partner is with you for life. “Cleave” means to cling to, to hold to, as bone to skin. It means to be glued to something--so when you get married, you’re stuck! After Jesus quoted this verse, He added, “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6).

This means that the marriage relationship must be built primarily on commitment, not on feelings of romantic love. Romantic love is important, but the foundation of marriage is a commitment of the will. It is a covenant before God (Mal. 2:14; Prov. 2:17). Commitment is what holds a couple together through the difficulties that invariably come. A Christian couple should never use the threat of divorce as leverage in a conflict.

(3) Companionship requires that marriage be an exclusive relationship. The text says, “To his wife,” not “wives.” Monogamy is God’s design: One man, one woman for life. Although God tolerated polygamy in Old Testament times, it was not His original intention. God easily could have created many wives for Adam, but He did not. One man, one woman, for life--that’s God’s design.

This means that when you get married, you give up close friendships with women other than your wife. You give up your freedom to go out with the guys whenever you choose. You have a new relationship with your wife; she is now your first priority in terms of human relationships. If you can’t handle that, you aren’t mature enough for the demands of marriage.

(4) Companionship requires that marriage be an intimate relationship. “And they shall become one flesh.” One flesh emphasizes the sexual union (1 Cor. 6:16). But the sexual union is always more than just physical. There is relational and emotional oneness as well. Most sexual problems in marriage stem from a failure of total person intimacy. Sexual harmony must be built on the foundation of a primary, permanent, exclusive relationship that is growing in trust, openness, and oneness. God made us that way.

If you remove sex from the context of the marriage commitment, you will experience a superficial sense of closeness. Paul says that even when a man has sex with a prostitute, he becomes one flesh with her (1 Cor. 6:16). But apart from the lifelong commitment of marriage, sex will never bring the satisfaction God designed it to give.

Sin always hinders intimacy, even in marriage. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they recognized their nakedness and began to hide themselves, not only from God, but also from one another. While as fallen sinners we can never experience what Adam and Eve knew with one another before the fall, to the extent that we deal with our sin before God and one another and grow in holiness, we will grow in personal intimacy. It takes constant work! Good marriages aren’t the result of luck in finding the right partner. They’re the result of couples who work daily at walking openly and humbly before God and with each other.

But God didn’t design marriage just so that we could be happy and have our needs met. He designed marriage to be a testimony for Him. Godly marriages bear witness of what it means to know God.

2. God designed marriage to provide an illustration of our relationship with Him.

The Bible says that God created marriage for a purpose bigger than itself: Marriage is a picture of the believer’s relationship with God. After discussing marriage and quoting Genesis 2:24, Paul writes, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32). Marriage is an earthly picture of the spiritual relationship that exists between Christ, the bridegroom, and the church, His bride. The consummation of a marriage is referred to in the Bible as a man knowing his wife; even so, we can know Christ our bridegroom. A husband and wife are one flesh; we are one spirit with the Lord (1 Cor. 6:17). Just as the church is to be subject to Christ, so the wife is to be subject to her husband. Just as Christ loves the church, so a husband is to love his wife. Just as the marital union results in children, so the union of the Lord and His church is to result in many offspring, to God’s glory.

Someone has described marriage as God’s doing with one man and one woman that which He is always trying to do within the world as a whole. That’s why it’s so important for you to work at developing a Christ-honoring relationship with your mate. You’re working on a portrait of Christ and the church, and the world is looking over your shoulder. God’s glory is at stake!


If you’re single, and content to remain single, then God’s Word to you is, Use your single state to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord and His work (1 Cor. 7:35). If you’re single, but desire to be married, God’s Word to you is, Be growing in godliness and purity and pray and look for a mate who is committed to do the same. Your lifelong relationship must be centered on God, so that it will reflect to the world a picture of Christ and the church. If you are married to an unbeliever, God’s Word to you is to win your mate without a word by your godly character and behavior (1 Pet. 3:1-7).

If you’re married, God’s Word to you is, Are you growing deeper in companionship with your mate? Is your marriage growing in the way it reflects Christ and the church to this selfish, pleasure-seeking, lost world? If you can’t honestly answer yes, then it ought to be a warning light on the dashboard to tell you that you are not in line with God’s design for marriage. Marriages don’t run on auto-pilot; they require attention and work. Take immediate action to get it on target! By God’s grace and your commitment, you can have a marriage that both honors Him and meets your needs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why are so many Christian marriages breaking up in our day? How can the church offer compassion to those who have suffered divorce and yet hold a tight line against divorce?
  2. Discuss: Is sexual sin more prevalent in our day than in past generations? How can we guard against it?
  3. What is the biggest hindrance to developing emotional intimacy in marriage?
  4. Discuss: Is it possible for two Christians married to one another to be irreconcilably incompatible?

Copyright 1996, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Marriage, Relationships, Worship

Lesson 8: How Temptation Works (Genesis 3:1-7)

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A woman had been shopping and had bought a dress that she knew she couldn’t afford. “Why did you do it?” her husband asked. “I just couldn’t help it,” she said. “The devil tempted me.”

“Why didn’t you say, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’?” the husband asked. “I did. But he just leaned over my shoulder and whispered, ‘My dear, it fits you beautifully in the back.’”

Because of Adam and Eve’s yielding to Satan’s original temptation, the human race was plunged into sin. Since then every person has struggled with temptation. Becoming a Christian and even walking with God for many years does not eliminate or even minimize the dangers of temptation. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There is within us all a strong desire for the forbidden fruit. Someone astutely observed, “Most people want to be delivered from temptation, but they would like it to keep in touch.”

As Christians who want to please God, we must understand how temptation works so that we can learn how to resist it. Our text is a classic case study of the process of temptation. My thesis is that ...

By understanding how temptation works we can devise a strategy for victory over it.

To be forewarned of Satan’s strategy is to be forearmed. His pattern for tempting Eve is essentially the same approach he uses today. By studying and learning to recognize that pattern, we will not be ignorant of his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11), and thus can resist them.

How temptation works:

While Satan tempted Eve, we are led astray by our own lusts (James 1:14-15). Before the fall, Satan had to approach Eve from without. Since the fall, he usually leaves us to our own inward lusts which respond to the temptations in the world. Only occasionally is there direct satanic influence. But since Satan is behind the original temptation, I’m going to refer to him in talking about how temptation works.

1. Satan is crafty and deceptive, not straightforward.

The chapter never positively identifies the serpent as Satan. Verse 15 does so in veiled terms. But the New Testament states it clearly (Rev. 12:9; 20:2) and just as clearly emphasizes that Satan’s methods involve deceit, schemes, lies, and trickery (see John 8:44; 2 Cor. 11:3, 14, 15; 1 Tim. 2:14). The word “crafty” means shrewd and is used in a good sense of “prudent” in Proverbs (12:16, 23; 14:8, 15, 18; 22:3; 27:12). But Satan uses his shrewd knowledge about life to deceive and trap us.

Satan’s deceptive tactics are seen initially in the form he takes. The serpent, before the fall, was different than the poisonous, repulsive reptile we know. Part of the curse was that it be more cursed than all other beasts and crawl on its belly (3:14). Apparently before that it was an attractive animal which did not cause Eve any fear or repulsion. Satan doesn’t usually come to us as a dragon with red tail and horns, which would make us run the other way. He comes in an attractive form.

The implication is that Satan waited until Eve was alone. Adam came later and she gave the fruit to him. Satan knows just the right moment to hit. Temptation is most powerful when you’re all alone. Perhaps you’re away from home. “Who will know? Go ahead and try it; what harm will it do?” Later we will study the story of Joseph, a young man in a foreign country, alone in the house with Potiphar’s wife who grabbed him and passionately said, “Lie with me!” Who else would know? Joseph resisted and fled that temptation because his focus was on God: “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). God would know! Live with a mind to please God even when you’re alone and you can resist Satan’s crafty appeals.

Temptation is usually deceptive. Satan makes it look like sin will get you where you want to go right now. It will meet your needs. Why deny yourself?

2. Satan challenges the authority of God’s Word.

Satan did not begin by saying, “Listen, Eve, God is flat-out wrong!” Instead, he planted a suggestion in the form of a question, the first question in the Bible. “Is it really true that God said that you couldn’t eat from any tree of the garden?” He’s saying, “Let’s talk about what God has said. There can’t be any harm in discussing it, can there?” But, as Derek Kidner perceptively puts it, Satan’s question “smuggles in the assumption that God’s word is subject to our judgment” (Genesis [IVP], p. 67). If we swallow that assumption, we’re on the enemy’s turf!

At first Eve defends God by correcting Satan’s extreme statement. Some commentators think that she erred by adding the words, “or touch it,” thus making God’s command more strict. Others say that she was simply keeping her proper distance from the tree. But then Satan counters by “reinterpreting” God’s reason behind the command (3:4-5), smuggling in another dangerous assumption, that we don’t need to obey God unless we understand His reason behind a command (Calvin’s Commentaries [Associated Publishers], p. 32). Whenever people explain away or reinterpret God’s clear commands as not applying to us, red lights should go off.

The fact that Satan came first to the woman, not to the man, also underscores his opposition to God’s authority. By getting the woman to act in disobedience not only of God, but also of her husband, was to subvert the image of God in man as male and female, thus undermining God’s authority (see my sermon on Gen. 1:26-31). This is implied in God’s indictment of Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife ...” (3:17).

Satan will tempt you by getting you to question the authority of God’s Word. “C’mon, you don’t believe all that outdated stuff about the headship of the husband, do you? You don’t believe all that restrictive stuff about sexual immorality, do you? Surely you don’t believe that this book of ancient Hebrew religious myths is binding on us today, do you? You can’t take it as applying literally to us!” That’s Satan’s line. He tempts us by being deceptive and by challenging the authority of God’s Word.

3. Satan impugns God’s character.

He does this in several subtle ways. One method is that he refers to God as “Elohim,” which emphasizes His power as Creator, but avoids the more personal covenant name “Yahweh.” It’s subtle, but Satan is trying to get Eve to think of God as impersonal. Eve falls for the bait and also uses Elohim, not Yahweh Elohim. But as soon as God comes seeking for the fallen couple in the garden, the name Yahweh Elohim is used again (3:1, 8, 9, 13, 14, 21, 22, 23).

Satan uses exaggeration to make God seem harsh. God had not said that Adam and Eve could not eat from any tree, but only from one tree. God had told them that they could freely eat from every tree but one, but Satan stretches it to sound like God was prohibiting everything. By overstating the case, Satan was drawing Eve into his trap. He wants us to focus on the negatives that God has given, instead of on His many positives. We end up thinking that God is a grouch who doesn’t want us to enjoy life. But even God’s prohibitions are for our good.

Notice how Eve is drawn into Satan’s line of thinking. Her reply magnifies the strictness of God on the one hand, but softens His threat of judgment on the other. God had said, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely” (2:16). Eve omits the words “any” and “freely” in her reply (3:2), and adds “or touch it” (3:3). God had said, “In the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” But Eve omits “surely” and doesn’t say that judgment will happen on that day (3:3). She is falling into Satan’s trap by changing the character of God to be more to her own liking. She’s admitting that God (not “the Lord” God) is a bit strict for her taste. But at the same time she’s minimizing His strictness by making His judgments out to be less than He said they would be.

Eve was already beginning to waver. The fall really took place before she ate the fruit, because her thinking about God was in error, and sin always begins in our thinking. It’s happening in churches in our day. People don’t like what they perceive to be God’s strictness, so they modify His absolute holiness. And they excuse their sin by saying that we’re under grace; God really wouldn’t be so harsh as to judge my sin.

Satan moves from a subtle suggestion which plants doubt (3:1) to a flat lie which calls God a liar (3:4). God had said, “You shall surely die.” Satan says, “You surely shall not die.” If Satan had started with this statement, Eve probably would have said, “You’re a liar!” But by beginning with a subtle question, then smuggling in the assumption that God’s word is subject to our judgment, and then exaggerating God’s strictness, he has Eve listening openly while he flatly calls God a liar. But he does it in an area where the results are in the future, so you can’t disprove him empirically. Very tricky!

Then he goes on to say that God isn’t really good. He’s trying to hold something good back from you: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Of course there is a smattering of truth in his words. After they ate the fruit God said, “the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil” (3:22). But the lie is that God is not good. Almost every temptation that confronts us contains the same lie. Satan wants us to doubt the goodness of God, because we won’t trust a God who is not good, and unbelief is the root sin. Not trusting God, we will trust ourselves, thinking that we can become like God. Pride and disobedience follow quickly on the heels of unbelief.

That’s why we need to be especially on guard when we’re going through a time of suffering. Peter’s warning to be on the alert because our adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, is written to people who were suffering (1 Pet. 5:8-10). Peter assures them that God has not forgotten them; He is the God of all grace who will bring His promises to fulfillment. But they need to resist Satan by being firm in their faith. We must not impugn God’s character by saying that He is not good, no matter what our current circumstances would make us think.

Thus Satan tempts us through deception; he challenges the authority of God’s Word; and he impugns God’s character.

4. Satan contradicts the certainty of God’s judgment.

“You shall not die.” Isn’t it significant that the first doctrine Satan denies is God’s judgment? Satan’s lie is: “Sin isn’t all that serious. You can sin and get away with it.” It’s ironic that having just persuaded Eve that God is not totally good (or He would not have prohibited her eating this fruit), Satan now implies that God is too good to punish such a minor infraction as eating a piece of fruit with such a major penalty as death. Satan always moves God’s absolute holiness and absolute justice toward the middle, so that He becomes neither totally holy nor totally just.

You may wonder, “What’s the big deal about eating a little piece of fruit? Wasn’t God overreacting to bring such severe punishment on such a minor infraction?” But the problem wasn’t just food. The problem was unbelief, rebellion, disobedience, and pride. God had provided them with all they needed. He had clearly demonstrated His goodness and love. They had every reason to trust and obey God and no reason to listen to Satan’s lies. By coming as a serpent, a creature made by God, it heightened man’s disobedience, since they had been created to have dominion over the creatures. Adam and Eve were without excuse. Satan tempts us by contradicting the certainty of God’s judgment. A final tactic:

5. Satan promises pleasure but doesn’t mention the pain.

“You will be like God” (3:5). He doesn’t elaborate, except to say, “knowing good and evil,” but rather dangles it before Eve as an intriguing possibility. The unknown aspect of it aroused her curiosity. It was a mixture of truth and falsehood. The thing promised was true, but at the same time was far from the truth. It is like the freedom sin promises: It’s true in part; but it’s ultimately false, since sin enslaves us. Satan didn’t bother to tell Eve the terrible consequences for her, her family, and the human race. He never does.

Satan displays his wares and then lets the attractiveness of the product lure Eve to her doom. Note the progression of verse 6, which may reflect Satan’s sales pitch: Eve “saw that the tree was good for food.” It was nutritional, not harmful or poisonous. And it tasted good; perhaps Satan sampled a bite in front of her. This corresponds to what John calls “the lust of the flesh” (1 John 2:16). The temptation looks as if it will meet a legitimate need, whether for food, sex, or comfort.

Next, Eve saw that the fruit “was a delight to the eyes.” It was pleasant, not ugly. Satan doesn’t tempt you with sleazy stuff; he tempts you with attractive things. If he can’t tempt you with a dirty, unattractive prostitute, he will bring along an understanding, attractive woman. This corresponds to what John calls “the lust of the eyes.”

Then Eve saw that the fruit “was desirable to make one wise.” This appealed to her need for intellectual stimulation and fulfillment. Wisdom is generally a good thing. God wants us to develop our minds. But wisdom apart from or in opposition to God’s Word just feeds what John calls “the boastful pride of life.” Derek Kidner states incisively: “Eve listened to a creature instead of the Creator, followed her impressions against her instructions, and made self-fulfillment her goal” (p. 68). At this point, Eve is rationalizing--making up reasons to justify what she has already decided to do. “It will help me nutritionally; it’s pleasant to look at; and it will make me wise. How can it be wrong when it seems so right?”

The results seemed initially beneficial. She didn’t physically die on the spot. Her eyes were opened, just as Satan said. Maybe God was wrong. But of course, death did set in at that moment: She died spiritually. Physical death began its course in her that very day. It was God’s mercy which spared her and Adam from being struck dead physically on the spot. Sometimes we wrongly interpret God’s merciful delay of judgment to be a denial of the certainty of judgment. But what God says, He always does.

Adam and Eve’s sin led to guilt and shame (3:7), which led to alienation from one another and from God (3:8-13). Their first son murdered his own brother. The history of the human race from this point on is marred by the tragedy of sin. Satan’s promises never come true. Wisdom isn’t gained by disobeying God, but by fearing and obeying Him. God’s judgment may be delayed, but it is always certain. It is true that sin usually gives initial pleasure; but it’s always followed by lasting pain. Kidner crisply notes, “So simple the act, so hard its undoing” (p. 68).

A strategy for victory over temptation:

I’ve developed Satan’s pattern for temptation sufficiently so that you can fill in an appropriate strategy for victory. But let me quickly name five corresponding steps:

1. We must beware of “new” twists of doctrine or practice.

Since Satan uses deception and lies, we need to be cautious about any “new” doctrine or practice. The world proclaims self-esteem and the church is glutted with books on how to accept and love yourself (even when your life is filled with sin). The world extols tolerance as the chief virtue, and the church is quick to tolerate every form of perversion under the banner of “grace.”

2. We must affirm the authority of God’s Word.

Satan always works to undermine the authority of God’s Word. If you take away the authority of the Word, you’re launched on a sea of moral relativism with no rudder. We must all submit to God’s Word, no matter how difficult or costly.

3. We must affirm God’s character as revealed in His Word.

Satan will try, through trials or disappointments, to get you to doubt either God’s goodness or sovereignty. It’s a short step from there to rebellion, because you can’t trust a God who is not good or is not in control. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and thrown in prison in Egypt because he resisted Potiphar’s wife. He could have easily doubted the goodness or sovereignty of God. But years later he told his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). You may have to believe it in spite of your circumstances, but hang onto it by faith: God is good and sovereign (Ps. 119:75).

4. We must affirm the reality of God’s judgment.

You cannot get away with sin any more than you can take fire into your shirt and not be burned (Prov. 6:27-28). The fact that judgment is not immediate does not mean that it is not certain. Grace does not eliminate the principle of sowing and reaping, even for Christians. Paul wrote about sowing and reaping in the same letter he wrote about grace (Gal. 6:7-8).

5. We must remember that sin gives fleeting pleasure, but results in pain which far outweighs the pleasure.

It’s true, sin has its delights. It’s fun for the moment. But you pay an awful price. Not only you, but your children and grandchildren will suffer after you (Exod. 20:5). Sin is a lot like living extravagantly on credit. You can live like a king for a few months, but the bills are going to come due. Then you have to pay up. The pleasures of sin are not worth the awful price.


At a Christian summer camp for children the counselor was leading a discussion on the purpose God had for everything He had created. They talked about the good reasons for clouds, trees, rocks, rivers, animals, and just about everything else in nature. But then one of the kids broke in with the question, “If God had a good purpose for everything, why did He create poison ivy?”

The counselor gulped and was fumbling for an answer when one of the other children came to his rescue, saying, “The reason God made poison ivy is because He wanted us to know there are certain things we should keep our cotton-pickin’ hands off!”

If you are defeated by temptation and sin, God in His mercy has provided the way of deliverance: “[Jesus Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:24-25). If you will trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord, He will freely pardon your sins and give you the power to overcome temptation.

Discussion Questions

  1. Since deception is “tricky,” how can we be on guard against it?
  2. How can we wrestle with honest questions about the Bible and yet not undermine its authority?
  3. How can a Christian who has suffered much affirm both the goodness and sovereignty of God?
  4. Will a Christian suffer the temporal consequences of his sin the same as an unbeliever?

Copyright 1996, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Satanology, Spiritual Life, Temptation

Lesson 9: Where Are You? (Genesis 3:7-15)

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Our modern psychotherapeutic culture is desperately trying to rid itself of the notion of guilt and shame. Modern celebrities go on TV and brag openly about things that, just a few years ago, would have been kept quiet. Best-selling books, like Healing the Shame That Binds You [Health Communications, Inc.], by recovery guru John Bradshaw, promise to rid us of “toxic shame” by “Using affirmations, visualizations, ‘inner voice’ and ‘feeling’ work plus guided meditations and other useful healing techniques” (Back cover). Even many professing Christian psychologists, tell us that our problem is low self-esteem; we need to learn to accept ourselves.

Because we all sin, we all need to deal with the problem of guilt. It is not surprising that the enemy of our souls offers many counterfeit solutions. So we must be careful to answer from the Bible alone the question, “How does God deal with my guilt?” The fig leaves of human solutions to guilt will not suffice in the day when we stand before the living God. The story of God’s coming to that first guilty, fig-leaf-clad, hiding couple, shows us God’s solution to guilt.

Even many Christians have wrong ideas about how God deals with sin and guilt. They think that God came looking for Adam and Eve in the garden, chewed them out, cursed everything in sight, kicked them out of the garden, and locked the door behind them. They view God as one who lowers the boom on guilty sinners.

But that’s not the picture of God in Genesis 3. Rather, we see God graciously seeking the guilty sinners and providing for their restoration. He promises them victory over the tempter. And even His expelling them from the garden was gracious, in that He protected them from living forever in their fallen condition. It is a chapter which gives us, as guilty sinners, great hope. We see that:

God graciously seeks, confronts, and offers reconciliation to the guilty sinner.

We deal with our guilt, not by hiding from Him, but by coming to Him and acknowledging our sin. Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me, I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37).

1. God graciously seeks the guilty sinner (3:7-10).

To begin, we must not overlook ...

A. The sinner’s guilt.

There is no mistaking it. As H. C. Leupold observes, “Here is one of the saddest anticlimaxes of history: They eat, they expect marvelous results, they wait--and there grows on them the sense of shame” (Exposition of Genesis [Baker], p. 154). Sin always leads to guilt; guilt leads to alienation, both between the sinner and God and between the sinner and his fellow human beings.

(1) The sinner’s guilt is seen in the sinner himself. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed [intertwined] fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (3:7). Suddenly they were self-conscious. Have you ever dreamed that you were in a public place and you weren’t properly clothed? It’s a relief to wake up and find out that you’re home in bed! Adam and Eve woke up and found out they weren’t dreaming. They were naked! For the first time, they had a sense that it wasn’t right. So they made an attempt to cover themselves with fig leaves.

When they sinned their conscience was activated. God’s question zeroes in on this, “Who told you that you were naked?” (3:11). The fact that Adam now knew he was naked showed that he had a conscience, which he got from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Someone has defined the conscience as a faults alarm. It goes off to tell us our faults. Of course it’s possible, through repeated sin, to sear your conscience to the point where it no longer functions. But this first couple’s conscience was operating just as God intended--it told them that they had sinned. When that alarm goes off, the fallen human tendency is to deal with it just as Adam and Eve did: Cover it up as quickly as possible. But that inner voice keeps nagging, “Guilty! Guilty!”

(2) The sinner’s guilt is seen in his relationships with others. Immediately Adam and Eve lost the open relationship they had enjoyed with one another (“naked and not ashamed,” 2:25). Their fig leaves picture a barrier between them, which is seen even more when God confronts Adam and he blames Eve (3:12). Nice guy, huh? He’s trying to save his own skin, even if God zaps his wife off the face of the earth. At least Eve was nice enough to blame the serpent! But Adam’s blaming Eve did not foster their relationship.

Blame is the human way to deal with guilt. It doesn’t work--our guilt is still there. But it’s the way every sinner tends to deal with guilt. You don’t have to teach it to your kids. They have a built-in circuit that says, “When you do something wrong, blame someone else. But don’t ever admit, ‘I was wrong.’”

The way this works is, people sin and they know they’re guilty, but they rationalize by thinking, “Yes, I was wrong; I shouldn’t have yelled at my wife. But she provoked me.” It’s like a scale, where I have a pile of guilt on one side, but rather than clearing it off the scale, I balance it by piling blame on the other side. It doesn’t remove the guilt, but it makes me feel better, at least for a while.

Of course people don’t just blame other people. They also blame their circumstances, which is really to blame God, who ordains our circumstances. Adam is implicitly blaming God when he says, “The woman whom You gave to be with me ...” (3:12). “If You hadn’t given her to me, God, I wouldn’t be in this mess. It’s Your fault.” The sinner’s guilt is seen in himself and in his relationship with others.

(3) The sinner’s guilt is seen in his response to God. Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool (lit., “the wind”) of the day. It should have been a time of refreshment and delight, but it now was a time of fear. God’s presence was a theophany, an appearance of Jesus Christ in human form before He was born of Mary thousands of years later. But Adam and Eve didn’t want to see Him. They hid among the trees.

Have you ever come home from work and one of your kids seemed to be avoiding you? When you found him, he wouldn’t look you in the eye? You know that he’s done something wrong! The human response to guilt is to hide from the one in authority over you. I experience it with people who are running from the Lord. Guess who represents God in their life? The pastor! If they happen to run into me in a store, they try to duck down one of the aisles before I get to where they’re at! It’s almost funny!

When the Lord finds Adam, Adam admits his fear. But notice what he says (3:10): “I was afraid because I was naked.” Not, “because I sinned,” but, “because I was naked.” He had been naked every other time the Lord had walked with him in the garden. The problem wasn’t his nakedness, but his sin. But the real problem was, and still is, it is a fearful thing to be exposed as a guilty sinner in the presence of God. And so instead of coming to God, who can deal with our sin, we run, foolishly thinking that we can hide from His omnipresent gaze.

But, thankfully, God goes after us. And so we see here not only the sinner’s guilt, but also ...

B. God’s gracious seeking.

Man may seek to hide from God, but the relentless “Hound of Heaven” goes after him. God calls to Adam and asks the first question attributed to God in the Bible: “Where are you?” (3:9). Whenever God asks a question, it is not to gain information. God knew exactly where Adam was. He asked the question to make Adam think. If you had a friend coming to your house for the first time and he called and said that he was lost, you would ask, “Where are you?” If he can tell you where he is, you can tell him how to get to your house. You’ve got to know where you are before you can receive directions to where you need to be.

God’s question told Adam two things: “You’re lost, Adam; and, I’ve come to find you.” Every person needs to know the same two things: He is lost without Jesus Christ; and, Christ came to seek and to save those who are lost. The Bible teacher, John Hunter, makes the point that people who do not know Jesus Christ are never called “unsaved” in the Bible. That term, Hunter contends, softens the tragic reality of their condition. The opposite of saved is not unsaved; it is lost.

When Adam sinned, he became lost with reference to God. All Adam’s descendents are born in that condition: lost. Before you can be reconciled to God, you’ve got to answer for yourself the question God asked Adam: Where are you? The answer is, “God, I’m lost.” Before God can save you, you’ve got to admit to Him that you are lost.

When I say that God’s seeking Adam was gracious, I mean that Adam did not deserve to be found and forgiven. He had rebelled openly and deliberately against God and His great love. No sinner deserves God’s favor. Two things underscore the fact that God’s seeking was gracious:

(1) That God’s seeking was gracious is seen in the fact that He came looking. God could have zapped them both on the spot and started over with a new couple. He could have waited a while. Let them stew in their own juice. Let them hide behind those silly fig leaves, cowering in fear every time they hear a noise in the bushes. Let them pay for what they’ve done. But the implication is that God came looking the same day Adam and Eve sinned. That was pure grace. God doesn’t seek us because we deserve it. We deserve His judgment, but He seeks us to save us. That’s grace!

(2) That God’s seeking was gracious is seen in the manner He came looking. He could have come down in anger, yelling, “Adam, front and center for your court martial and execution!” He could have come with a lecture: “Adam, you’ve blown it badly. How could you do this to Me, after all I’ve done for you? How many times did I tell you not to eat that fruit? How could anyone could be so stupid!”

But God came graciously to Adam with a question designed to make him think about where he was: “Where are you, Adam? Look at yourself, hiding behind that tree. Look at those silly fig leaves. Why are you there?” No sinner seeks after God. He graciously seeks hiding sinners. Once God finds the hiding sinner, grace does not stop.

2. God graciously confronts the guilty sinner (3:11-13).

God never ignores sin or brushes it aside, as we do. If someone wrongs us, we may say, “No big deal. Don’t worry about it.” But God can’t do that. That would minimize the seriousness of sin and compromise His holiness and justice. God confronts guilty sinners, but He does it graciously. By that I do not mean that God is not pointed and direct. Rather, it is gracious because His goal is restoration of the relationship, not condemnation.

So God asks another question: “Who told you that you were naked?” This question was intended to show Adam that something new had taken place inside him, namely, the birth of his conscience. An inner voice was telling Adam that he was naked and guilty before God. Someone has said, “If the best of men had his innermost thoughts written on his forehead, he’d never take off his hat.” We are all corrupt in our hearts. God used this question to get Adam to see that he was corrupted in his heart because he had disobeyed.

God’s next question is very direct, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” Adam blames his wife and implicitly blames God for giving her to him. But then he weakly admits his disobedience, “and I ate” (3:12).

Then God turns to Eve and directly asks, “What is this you have done?” Like Adam, Eve tries to pass the buck. But she finally also admits, “and I ate” (3:13). When there’s sin in a person’s life, what they need most is to admit their disobedience to God. At the point we acknowledge our sin, God takes over and deals with our guilt His way.

3. God graciously offers reconciliation to the guilty sinner (3:14-15).

God questioned the man and the woman because He wanted to lead them to repentance; but He did not question the serpent because there was no mercy for him. God cursed the serpent. The curse is directed both to the actual snake and to Satan who used the snake for his evil deeds. Verse 14 applies mostly to the snake as an animal; verse 15 applies mostly to Satan. In a future study we’ll see how God provided animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve, a picture of atonement. But for now I must limit myself to verses 14 & 15, which show us two ways God graciously offers reconciliation to guilty sinners.

A. God graciously offers reconciliation by defeating our adversary, the devil.

The serpent is cursed to crawl on its belly and eat dust. As Donald Barnhouse explains, “To eat dust is to know defeat, and that is God’s prophetic judgment upon the enemy.... There will be continuous aspiration, but never any attainment” (Genesis: A Devotional Exposition [Zondervan], p. 22). The serpent was literally condemned to crawl on its belly, which I understand to mean that before the curse, it did not do so. (Some commentators say that it did, but that now God attaches new significance to that fact.)

Behind the serpent, Satan is condemned to an existence of frustration and defeat. This is seen most pointedly in the cross, where Satan thought he had finally defeated God’s program by killing the Savior. But the cross was God’s greatest victory, because in it and in the resurrection of Christ, Satan’s final doom was secured. Though during this age God allows Satan some leash, so that he wins some battles, he’s going to lose the war!

If God had not graciously defeated our adversary, we never could have been reconciled to Him. We are no match in ourselves for a creature as sly and powerful as Satan. But since he was defeated at the cross, God can offer reconciliation to guilty sinners, and free them from Satan’s domain of darkness (see Col. 1:13; 2:13-15). Genesis 3:15 tells us how God would defeat Satan:

B. God graciously offers reconciliation through His seed who conquers the devil.

This verse is the earliest promise of a Redeemer, and it comes as a surprise in this context of judgment. But its unexpectedness makes God’s grace shine all the brighter. God promises to put enmity between the serpent and the woman. Satan already hated Eve, but God graciously put it into Eve’s heart to hate Satan. Then God says that this enmity will be between Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed. This refers to the battle of the ages between the ungodly, who are children of their father, the devil (John 8:44), and the children of God. In this sense, “seed” is collective.

But God goes on to say that He (singular, a particular seed of the woman) shall bruise Satan on the head, and Satan would bruise Him on the heel. This refers to Christ, born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), the last Adam, who would redeem the fallen race. It is a remarkable verse in that it refers to the seed of the woman, not the man. Elsewhere in the Bible descent is determined through the male. But here it is the seed of the woman, not the man, who will bruise Satan’s head. It is a prophecy, veiled at the time, but evident now, of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.

At the cross, Satan bruised Christ on the heel. At first, the cross seemed like a great victory for Satan and a terrible defeat for God. But when Christ arose from the dead, the serpent was crushed on the head. What seemed like Satan’s moment of triumph was actually the eve of his greatest defeat. He thought that he was gaining what he had been after since he rebelled against God; but actually, he was carrying out the sovereign purposes of God’s eternal plan. And so here, in this context when Adam and Eve could rightly have expected to be condemned to hell for their sin, God promises the defeat of Satan and the victory of the Redeemer who would come from Eve’s descendents. Amazing grace!


An American woman, returning from Europe with some perfume she had bought, had gone to a great deal of trouble packing the bottles so that they wouldn’t be spotted by customs officials. An official started going through her luggage. He had nearly finished searching the last suitcase when the woman’s small daughter clapped her hands and said excitedly, “Oh, Mommy, he’s getting warm, isn’t he?” You can try to hide your sin from God, but be sure your sin will find you out!

Let me direct God’s first question to you: Where are you? Are you hiding, afraid of God, because of sin in your life? Maybe you’re trying to cover your sin with the fig leaves of your good works. Perhaps, like Jonah, you are one of God’s children, and yet you are running from His purpose for your life. You have sin you have not confessed to Him. Your guilt may make you think that God is after you to punish you. The Bible says that God is after you to save you from the judgment your sin deserves. He is graciously calling, “Where are you?” If you will come to Him and confess your sin, He will deliver you from Satan’s domain of darkness and transfer you to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom you will have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13-14). That’s how to deal with your guilt.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is all guilt unhealthy? How can we distinguish between the conviction of the Spirit and the accusations of Satan?
  2. Why is it important to affirm that none seeks for God (Rom. 3:11; John 15:16)? Does this mean that we should not exhort sinners to seek the Savior? Why/why not?
  3. Will proclaiming grace as God’s undeserved favor result in people taking sin lightly? Why/why not (see Rom. 6)?
  4. How can a couple break out of the guilt-blame cycle in a marriage? What specific counsel could you give such a couple?

Copyright 1996, Steven J. Cole, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Grace, Hamartiology (Sin)